Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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Memory of the deportation of the Jews of Rome during the Second World War.

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 3, 46-60

After mustering, they made their way to Mizpah, opposite Jerusalem, since Mizpah was traditionally a place of prayer for Israel.

That day they fasted and put on sackcloth, covering their heads with ashes and tearing their garments.

For the guidance that the gentiles would have sought from the images of their false gods, they opened the Book of the Law.

They also brought out the priestly vestments, with first-fruits and tithes, and marshalled the Nazirites who had completed the period of their vow.

Then, raising their voices to Heaven, they cried, 'What shall we do with these people, and where are we to take them?

Your holy place has been trampled underfoot and defiled, your priests mourn in their humiliation,

and now the gentiles are in alliance to destroy us: you know what they have in mind for us.

How can we stand up and face them if you do not come to our aid?'

Then they sounded the trumpets and raised a great shout.

Next, Judas appointed leaders for the people, to command a thousand, a hundred, fifty or ten men.

Those who were in the middle of building a house, or were about to be married, or were planting a vineyard, or were afraid, he told to go home again, as the Law allowed.

The column then marched off and took up a position south of Emmaus.

'Stand to your arms,' Judas told them, 'acquit yourselves bravely, in the morning be ready to fight these gentiles massed against us to destroy us and our sanctuary.

Better for us to die in battle than to watch the ruin of our nation and our Holy Place.

Whatever be the will of Heaven, he will perform it.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The assembly of the people was not held in Jerusalem, now occupied by the Gentiles, but in Mizpah, a town 13 kilometres from the capital. Mizpah had been fortified in the past by Asa king of Judah, to defend it against the attacks of the Northern Kingdom (1 Kings 15:22) and it also became the seat of the governor Gedaliah, after the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25.22 to 25). The notation of the presence of an altar seems to justify the choice of the location for a meeting of clearly religious nature. In fact, the sacred author writes, “They fasted that day, put on sackcloth and sprinkled ashes on their heads, and tore their clothes” (v. 47). The entirety of the dispossessed people was to stand before God in their poverty and in their absolute need of help from on High. And they set to listen to the Scriptures through which the Lord speaks: “They opened the book of the law to inquire into those matters about which the Gentiles consulted the images of their gods” (v. 48). The author suggests that the Jews turn to the holy book to obtain the hope of a heavenly blessing. It is the only passage in the Bible which speaks of a consultation by opening random pages of Scripture; the custom will become more frequent in Christianity. The Jews then, knowing that they could not live away from the temple, tried to imitate the rites carrying priestly vestments, first fruits and tithes to offer, as well as inviting some Nazirites (i.e. faithful who abstained from alcoholic beverages and haircuts) so that they break their votes as they would do in the temple. Then they played the trumpets and the common prayer of the whole people rose to heaven. They knew that God could not but listen to his people that turned to Him in faith and with one voice. Jesus also emphasizes the irresistible force of prayer before the Father who is in Heaven, “Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Mt 18:19-20). After the common prayer, Judas got busy with the impending battle. And his first care was to establish an order among his army appointing men in charge of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens, as we read in Exodus (18:21-26). And then he chose the soldiers according to the provisions laid down in Deuteronomy (20:5-8). With the army then he moved to Emmaus. After camping, he urged the soldiers to feel as “powerful sons,” so to emphasize that only the awareness of being “children” of the Lord made them “powerful” in front of the enemy’s strength. And then he asked them to be ready to give their life for the salvation of the people: “It is better for us to die in battle, than to see the destruction of our nation and of the sanctuary. But as his will in heaven may, so shall he do.” These are words that recall us of that night in Gethsemane when Jesus accepted to do his Father’s will, which is to give his life for everyone.