Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

1 Maccabees 1, 29-40

Two years later the king sent the Mysarch through the cities of Judah. He came to Jerusalem with an impressive force,

and addressing them with what appeared to be peaceful words, he gained their confidence; then suddenly he fell on the city, dealing it a terrible blow, and destroying many of the people of Israel.

He pillaged the city and set it on fire, tore down its houses and encircling wall,

took the women and children captive and commandeered the cattle.

They then rebuilt the City of David with a great strong wall and strong towers and made this their Citadel.

There they installed a brood of sinners, of renegades, who fortified themselves inside it,

storing arms and provisions, and depositing there the loot they had collected from Jerusalem; they were to prove a great trouble.

It became an ambush for the sanctuary, an evil adversary for Israel at all times.

They shed innocent blood all round the sanctuary and defiled the sanctuary itself.

The citizens of Jerusalem fled because of them, she became a dwelling-place of strangers; estranged from her own offspring, her children forsook her.

Her sanctuary became as forsaken as a desert, her feasts were turned into mourning, her Sabbaths into a mockery, her honour into reproach.

Her dishonour now fully matched her former glory, her greatness was turned into grief.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Antiochus wants to strengthen his power in Jerusalem and sends a lieutenant with a strong army there. The lieutenant’s name is Apollonius as we read in Second Maccabees (5:24). Apollonius tricks the Jews into letting him into Jerusalem; he kills people and sacks the city, enslaves the people, takes possession of the cattle and builds a fortified citadel within Jerusalem that will be known with its Greek name: Akra. From this fortress he controls the entire city and its territories. It also makes the city a centre for promoting Hellenism. This indeed was a strategic choice: “…[T]hey fortified the city of David with a great strong wall and strong towers, and it became their citadel.” The text continues by describing that “they stationed there a sinful people, lawless men” and “It became an ambush against the sanctuary, an evil adversary of Israel continually.” The king sought to break down the tight-knit community of Israel by conquering Jerusalem, taking absolute control of the area and impeding every possible way that the Jews could resist and reconstruct their culture. The recount starts with the story of the lieutenant’s shrewdness in cheating the Jews in order to enter the city. This is an episode far away in time that invites us to reflect on the responsibility that believers have to defend their community against assaults by “evil” and not leave openings to whoever wants to destroy or weaken it. This should be done starting from our own heart. Indeed, a heart that is weak in faith gives an opening to the enemy who is ready to enter into it. This is even more the case when it is a community of believers that weaken. How many times does the sin of the believers become complicit with the one who wants to unhinge the life of the community! We must be vigilant so that communal life—which is the Church’s treasure and message offered to the World—must not be endangered. The “enemy” or the “devil” is always at the door, ready to divide and destroy. A closely-knit people, like the Jewish community, were intolerable for Antiochus and indeed, he tried to divide them. And there were some who made it possible for him. And the enemy was able to get inside. The words of this text are harsh: “She [Jerusalem] became a dwelling of strangers; she became strange to her offspring ... Her sanctuary became desolate as a desert; her feasts were turned into mourning, her sabbaths into a reproach, her honour into contempt.” These indeed are words that help us to understand the responsibility that each one of us has to build and defend the community of love of which the Lord has made us a part.