Sunday Vigil

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

1 Maccabees 6,1-13

King Antiochus, meanwhile, was making his way through the Upper Provinces; he had heard that in Persia there was a city called Elymais, renowned for its riches, its silver and gold, and its very wealthy temple containing golden armour, breastplates and weapons, left there by Alexander son of Philip, the king of Macedon, the first to reign over the Greeks. He therefore went and attempted to take the city and pillage it, but without success, the citizens having been forewarned. They resisted him by force of arms. He was routed, and began retreating, very gloomily, towards Babylon. But, while he was still in Persia, news reached him that the armies which had invaded Judaea had been routed, and that Lysias in particular had advanced in massive strength, only to be forced to turn and flee before the Jews; that the latter were now stronger than ever, thanks to the arms, supplies and abundant spoils acquired from the armies they had cut to pieces, and that they had pulled down the abomination which he had erected on the altar in Jerusalem, had encircled the sanctuary with high walls as in the past, and had fortified Beth-Zur, one of his cities. When the king heard this news he was amazed and profoundly shaken; he threw himself on his bed and fell sick with grief, since things had not turned out for him as he had planned. And there he remained for many days, subject to deep and recurrent fits of melancholy, until he realised that he was dying. Then, summoning all his Friends, he said to them, 'Sleep evades my eyes, and my heart is cowed by anxiety. I have been wondering how I could have come to such a pitch of distress, so great a flood as that which now engulfs me -- I who was so generous and well-loved in my heyday. But now I recall how wrongly I acted in Jerusalem when I seized all the vessels of silver and gold there and ordered the extermination of the inhabitants of Judah for no reason at all. This, I am convinced, is why these misfortunes have overtaken me, and why I am dying of melancholy in a foreign land.'

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

If you believe, you will see the glory of God,
thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

With the death of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the author shows the sad end of anyone who lets himself be guided by the greed of riches. It is a temptation that unfortunately returns in every generation, including ours. Those who favour it are urged to do evil deeds both against people and against God. During his campaign against Persia, Antiochus received news of the numerous defeats suffered by his army by the Jews who not only had humiliated his army, but also regained Jerusalem and restored the temple. The king was bitterly struck by this news: he - notes the author - not only became frightened but even fell ill and in depression. The author underlines three times the moods of the king by adding the adjective "great": great sadness, great depression, great pain. The burning defeats led the king to reflect on his past. And he came - in a sort of confession of sins - to recognize the causes of his ills, namely the sacking of the temple he performed (1:20-24) and the massacres ordered by one of his emissaries (1:29-32). In truth, at the origin of everything there was the greed for riches that had led him to do evil deeds. Wealth corrupts the heart of those who are believers and of those who are not. In this case it was Antiochus who was corrupted by riches. But in the course of the story, the sons of Mattathias, unlike their father, will let themselves be corrupted by gold and silver and their lives will all end in a violent way. Already the prophets had inveighed against the enslavement to money. Jesus, who fulfils Scriptures, clearly warns: "No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth" (Mt 6:24). In today's materialistic culture these words, also illustrated by the example of Antiochus, resonate even stronger to keep us away from greed.