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The Everyday Prayer


 
printable version

Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome


Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

1 Maccabees 16, 1-24

John then went up from Gezer and reported to his father Simon what Cendebaeus was busy doing.

At this, Simon summoned his two elder sons, Judas and John, and said to them, 'My brothers and I, and my father's House, have fought the enemies of Israel from our youth until today, and many a time we have been successful in rescuing Israel.

But now I am an old man, while you, by the mercy of Heaven, are the right age; take the place of my brother and myself, go out and fight for our nation, and may Heaven's aid be with you.'

He then selected twenty thousand of the country's fighting men and cavalry, and these marched against Cendebaeus, spending the night at Modein.

Making an early start, they marched into the plain, to find a large army opposing them, both infantry and cavalry; there was, however, a stream-bed in between.

John drew up facing them, he and his army and, seeing that the men were afraid to cross the stream-bed, crossed over first himself. When his men saw this, they too crossed after him.

He divided his army into two, with the cavalry in the centre and the infantry on either flank, as the opposing cavalry was very numerous.

The trumpets rang out; Cendebaeus and his army were put to flight, many of them falling mortally wounded and the rest of them fleeing to the fortress.

Then it was that Judas, John's brother, was wounded, but John pursued them until Cendebaeus reached Kedron, which he had rebuilt.

Their flight took them as far as the towers in the countryside of Azotus, and John burnt these down. The enemy losses amounted to ten thousand men; John returned safely to Judaea.

Ptolemy son of Abubos had been appointed general in command of the Plain of Jericho; he owned a great deal of silver and gold,

and was the high priest's son-in-law.

His ambition was fired; he hoped to make himself master of the whole country and therefore treacherously began to plot the destruction of Simon and his sons.

Simon, who was inspecting the towns up and down the country and attending to their administration, had come down to Jericho with his sons Mattathias and Judas, in the year 172, in the eleventh month, the month of Shebat.

The son of Abubos lured them into a small fortress called Dok, which he had built, where he offered them a great banquet, having previously hidden men in the place.

When Simon and his sons were drunk, Ptolemy and his men reached for their weapons, rushed on Simon in the banqueting hall and killed him with his two sons and some of his servants.

He thus committed a great act of treachery and rendered evil for good.

Ptolemy wrote a report of the affair and sent it to the king, in the expectation of being sent reinforcements and of having the cities and the province made over to him.

He also sent people to Gezer to murder John, and sent written orders to the military commanders to come to him so that he could give them silver, gold and presents;

and he also sent others to seize control of Jerusalem and the Temple mount.

But someone had been too quick for him and had already informed John in Gezer that his father and brothers had perished, adding, 'He is sending someone to kill you too!'

Overcome as John was by the news, he arrested the men who had come to kill him and put them to death, being forewarned of their murderous design.

The rest of John's acts, the battles he fought and the exploits he performed, the city walls he built, and all his other achievements,

from the day he succeeded his father as high priest, are recorded in the annals of his pontificate.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Chapter sixteen narrates the end of the story of the Maccabee brothers. It is a partially glorious history, due to the military virtues the new generations, represented by Simon’s sons, prove they verily inherited from their fathers by victoriously overcoming the enemy troops of Antiochus VII (1-10). When John Hyrcanus, whose fortress of Gazara (13:53) was closest to Cendebeus’ headquarters, told his father what was happening, Simon, who was nearly sixty years old, sent John and Judas, his other son, to avert the danger brought by Cendebeus. He entrusted them with his same task: “My brothers and I and my father’s house have fought the wars of Israel from our youth until this day, and things have prospered in our hands so that we have delivered Israel many times. But now I have grown old, and you by Heaven’s mercy are mature in years. Take my place and my brother’s, and go out and fight for our nation, and may the help that comes from Heaven be with you.” So John immediately led the troops and giving an example of courage, he moved against Cendebeus. All the soldiers were moved by his example and the enemy was routed. But lust for power had penetrated among the ranks of the followers of the Maccabees, and the first to be struck down were Simon and his two sons, who were victims of an attack. Ptolemy, Simon’s son in law, was driven by ambition to plot against his father and brothers-in-law. As governor of the fertile region immediately north of the Dead Sea, he invited Simon and his sons, Judas and Mattathias, at a banquet in Dok, where all three were murdered. In order to satisfy his desires, Ptolemy turned to the enemy of his people. He was almost certain that Antiochus VII would have supported him and entrusted him with the command of the region of Judaea. Indeed, he was well aware of the tensions existing between Simon and the king of Syria. He wrote to Antiochus VII to ask for troops, and at the same time sent his own men to Gazara to kill John. But having been warned on time, John killed the men sent to murder him. The sacred author stops on the story of the bloodshed, revealing that the son of Simon was victorious thanks to the information he received from people who were loyal to him. From other sources we know that John returned to Jerusalem, where he was celebrated and welcomed by the people, and was able to turn back his brother-in-law Ptolemy. In the last two verses, the author is inspired by the style of the Book of Kings, where at the end of the life of each sovereign of Judaea or Israel, we always find reference to other historical sources that the author previously omitted for the sake of brevity. Thus the author underlines his ties to the events of the past of the people of Israel. It is a unique history, which continues with all its contradictions and human unfaithfulness, but also preserves the uninterrupted faithfulness of God to his people.


11/29/2013
Memory of Jesus crucified


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