From the Pastor: The Feast of the Holy Machabees
On Monday we celebrate the Feast of a holy group of men, Mathathias and his sons, the Machabees. When is the last time you read the two books of the Machabees in your bible? There may never be a better time to do so than this week. Men, I ask you especially to read this to or with your boys, for it teaches lessons on manhood, on faithfulness, on courage, and other now-lost aspects of what it is to be a true man of God. And, for the ladies and girls, there is one of the best examples of faithful motherhood in book two! The first book starts out with an evil king conquering nation after nation, taking everything of value, and instilling fear in all others. It shows how even Jerusalem, God’s holy city, was ravaged and sacked. Many of God’s people, having more fear of death than fear of God, did even abominable sins and renounced their faith in order to please this evil king with the hopes of being left alive, even if left in squalor. Here we will see, though, that when just one man, Mathathias, retains his faith and is willing to risk everything for the glory of God, others will follow him and God will bring miraculous victories. Let me give you just a taste of the second chapter of the first book to whet your appetite.
And they that were sent from king Antiochus, came thither, to compel them that were fled into the city of Modin, to sacrifice, and to burn incense, and to depart from the law of God. And many of the people of Israel consented and came to them: but Mathathias and his sons stood firm. And they that were sent from Antiochus, answering, said to Mathathias: Thou art a ruler, and an honourable, and great man in this city, and adorned with sons, and brethren. Therefore, come thou first, and obey the king's commandment, as all nations have done, and the men of Juda, and they that remain in Jerusalem: and thou, and thy sons shall be in the number of the king's friends, and enriched with gold, and silver, and many presents.
Then Mathathias answered, and said with a loud voice: Although all nations obey king Antiochus, so as to depart every man from the service of the law of his fathers, and consent to his commandments: I and my sons, and my brethren will obey the law of our fathers. God be merciful unto us: it is not profitable for us to forsake the law, and the justices of God: We will not hearken to the words of king Antiochus, neither will we sacrifice and transgress the commandments of our law, to go another way.
Now as he left off speaking these words, there came a certain Jew in the sight of all to sacrifice to the idols upon the altar in the city of Modin, according to the king's commandment. And Mathathias saw, and was grieved, and his reins trembled, and his wrath was kindled according to the judgment of the law, and running upon him he slew him upon the altar: Moreover the man whom king Antiochus had sent, who compelled them to sacrifice, he slew at the same time, and pulled down the altar, And shewed zeal for the law, as Phinees did by Zamri, the son of Salomi.
And Mathathias cried out in the city with a loud voice, saying: Every one that hath zeal for the law, and maintaineth the testament, let him follow me. So he and his sons fled into the mountains, and left all that they had in the city. Then many that sought after judgment, and justice, went down into the desert And they abode there, they and their children, and their wives, and their cattle: because afflictions increased upon them... And all they that fled from the evils, joined themselves to them, and were a support to them. And they gathered an army, and slew the sinners in their wrath, and the wicked men in their indignation: and the rest fled to the nations for safety. And Mathathias and his friends went round about, and they threw down the altars: And they circumcised all the children whom they found in the confines of Israel that were uncircumcised: and they did valiantly. And they pursued after the children of pride, and the work prospered in their hands: And they recovered the law out of the hands of the nations, and out of the hands of the kings: and they yielded not the horn to the sinner.
Now the days drew near that Mathathias should die, and he said to his sons: Now hath pride and chastisement gotten strength, and the time of destruction, and the wrath of indignation: Now, therefore, O my sons, be ye zealous for the law, and give your lives for the covenant of your fathers. And call to remembrance the works of the fathers, which they have done in their generations: and you shall receive great glory, and an everlasting name.... And thus consider, through all generations: that none that trust in him, fail in strength... You, therefore, my sons, take courage, and behave manfully in the law: for by it you shall be glorious... And you shall take to you all that observe the law: and revenge ye the wrong of your people. Render to the Gentiles their reward, and take heed to the precepts of the law. And he blessed them, and was joined to his fathers.
You can find the rest of the story in your own bible.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka