Memory of Jesus crucified

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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 2, 49-70

As the days of Mattathias were drawing to a close, he said to his sons, 'Arrogance and outrage are now in the ascendant; it is a period of turmoil and bitter hatred.

This is the time, my children, for you to have a burning zeal for the Law and to give your lives for the covenant of our ancestors.

Remember the deeds performed by our ancestors, each in his generation, and you will win great honour and everlasting renown.

Was not Abraham tested and found faithful, was that not considered as justifying him?

Joseph in the time of his distress maintained the Law, and so became lord of Egypt.

Phinehas, our father, in return for his burning zeal, received the covenant of everlasting priesthood.

Joshua, for carrying out his task, became judge of Israel.

Caleb, for his testimony before the assembled people, received an inheritance in the land.

David for his generous heart inherited the throne of an everlasting kingdom.

Elijah for his consuming fervour for the Law was caught up to heaven itself.

Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael, for their fidelity, were saved from the flame.

Daniel for his singleness of heart was rescued from the lion's jaws.

Know then that, generation after generation, no one who hopes in him will be overcome.

Do not fear the threats of the sinner, all his brave show must come to the dunghill and the worms.

Exalted today, tomorrow he is nowhere to be found, for he has returned to the dust he came from and his scheming is brought to nothing.

My children, be resolute and courageous for the Law, for it will bring you glory.

'Here is your brother Simeon, I know he is a man of sound judgement. Listen to him all your lives; let him take your father's place.

Judas Maccabaeus, strong and brave from his youth, let him be your general and conduct the war against the gentiles.

The rest of you are to enrol in your ranks all those who keep the Law, and to assure the vengeance of your people.

Pay back the gentiles to the full, and hold fast to the ordinance of the Law.'

Then he blessed them and was joined to his ancestors.

He died in the year 146 and was buried in his ancestral tomb at Modein, and all Israel mourned him deeply.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

After reminding us of the successes obtained by Mattathias and the movement he raised, the author starts to conclude his story. And he does this by using the very words of Mattathias that ring as a true testament for his descendants. Aware that death is upon him, Mattathias addresses his loved ones with words filled with spiritual wisdom. He mentions the difficult time that the people of God are living, “Arrogance and scorn have now become strong; it is a time of ruin and furious anger” (v. 49). He asks them to react with great audacity, “Now, my children, show zeal for the law, and give your lives for the covenant of our ancestors” (v. 50). In order to express the zeal to which Mattathias calls his descendants, the text uses the same terms used for the killing of the fellow countryman who approached the altar to offer sacrifices to idols. Then the text goes back to the exhortation “to give one’s life” in order to defend the covenant. The true way to defend the covenant with God is not to take other people’s lives, but to give one’s own life for God and the faith. This is an exhortation to martyrdom as the highest way to show one’s love. And here, Mattathias recalls the faith of the forefathers that was for them a reason of reward. He starts by presenting the Abraham’s faith who indeed for him was justified by it and then continues on to note the faith of Joseph who “became lord of Egypt”, that of Phinehas who “received the covenant of everlasting priesthood”, and Joshua who “became judge of Israel”, Caleb who “received an inheritance in the land”, David who became king, Elijah who “was taken up into heaven”, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael who “were saved from the flame”, and Daniel who “was delivered from the mouth of the lions.” At the end of the list of the witnesses to faith, Mattathias calls his sons and daughters to follow their steps and to place their faith solely in God, “And so observe, from generation to generation, that none of those who put their trust in him will lack strength. Do not fear the words of sinners, for their splendour will turn into dung and worms. Today they will be exalted, but tomorrow they will not be found, because they will have returned to the dust, and their plans will have perished. My children, be courageous and grow strong in the law, for by it you will gain honour” (v. 61-64). For Mattathias, these examples should show his children the true way to find “glory” and obtain an eternal name, which are two recurring themes found in the rest of the book. Unfortunately, his children would betray their father’s mandate, as they would think that glory is linked with riches of gold and kingship sought even through violence or allying oneself with oppressors. In reality, fame and glory are divine gifts. The author reminds it in other moments: the “name” indicates God (4:33) and glory the temple (1:40). Whoever aligns themselves with God receive them. The search for fame and honour is a tragic misunderstanding. The second book of Maccabees observes that the renunciation of glory and the submission to martyrdom will bring one the victory over death through resurrection.