Scripture: Lectionary 497. Nov.18th I Maccabees 1:10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-68. Psalm 119:18.104.22.168.155.158. Luke 18:35-43.
We start the next to last week of the liturgical year with readings from the historical chronicles of the Maccabee Family (167-134 B.C.). This is a canonical book for the Orthodox and the Catholic Churches. The Maccabees are agents of God’s guidance of Israel through salvation history who bring about the freedom from Hellenistic oppression. The situation is clearly described in chapter one and we learn about the statue of the “abomination of desolation” that Antioches IV Epiphanes put on the altar of the holocaust offerings.
Maccabees 5:52 describes the family in this manner: “the family of those men through whom deliverance was given to Israel.” Alexander the Great had died in 323 B.C. and during his reign of ten short years he established and forced Hellenism on all the nations he had conquered. His followers were even more cruel in how this was done to people who resisted. Antiochus IV Epiphanes was the one whom we learn about in the first chapter of Maccabees. The “abomination of desolation” is referred to in the Gospel and it may have actually been as statue of Antiochus IV (175-164 B.C.). The freedom fighters of the Maccabees would continue down to 134 B.C.
There is a similarity in the Shoah (the tragedy called the Holocaust) which started under Hitler in 1933 and went till 1945. Shoah is the preferred way the Jewish community wants us to speak of the Holocaust. What happened in Maccabees was similar in the burning of the Torah and sacred books, the prevention of the covenant sign of circumcision, and the ruthless murder of those who did not accept the Hellenistic culture into their land and religion. The feast that is commemorated by its foundation is Hanukkah and this comes directly from the First Book of Maccabees 4:36-59.
In the Gospel passage for today we read or hear the narrative surrounding the cure of a blind person near Jericho as Jesus is on his last journey up to Jerusalem. Amazingly, he trusts (believes) that Jesus is the Christ. His inward vision sees Jesus as others do not. He cries out for healing for his physical blindness by using a prayer similar to what is known as the Jesus Prayer: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” We may wish to pray for such inward vision of faith that sees, trusts, and believes that Jesus can heal our own blindness in things spiritual. Amen.
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.