Friday, November 18, 2005

Maccabees...a great read!

Disclaimer: I am most emphatically not a scripture scholar.

That said...I don't get why the Books Macabees are considered apocryphal by Protestants Or, I guess, at least I understand it to a certain extent....these books are not included in the Hebrew Scriptures.

I wonder why?

We've been hearing from these books at daily Mass now for a number of days. The writings underscore the zealous love of God's law displayed by many of His Chosen, in the face of incredibly brutal persecution.

What inspires me the most is how these martyrs faced gruesome death with courage and confidence. At age 90, Eleazar preferred a horrible death to leading astray the young men of his community. The account of martyrdom of the woman and her sons — while, I grant you, not exactly easy reading — is a superb testimony of faith.

As we continue to step up the prayers for the souls in Purgatory this month, it is good to reflect on the actions of Judas Maccabee, when he ordered prayers and sacrifices in Jerusalem for soldiers who had died in battle. The soldiers had been found wearing "good luck charms" which, of course, went smack against the First Commandment.

"He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death.
"But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought.

"Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin."
Today's reading describes the purification of the Temple, which had been defiled by the Gentiles.

"Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with gladness and joy for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Kislev."

That 8-day festival is called Hannukkah.