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 5, 1-20

When the surrounding nations heard that the altar had been rebuilt and the sanctuary restored to what it had been before, they became very angry

and decided to destroy the descendants of Jacob living among them; they began to murder and evict our people.

Judas made war on the sons of Esau in Idumaea, in the region of Acrabattene where they were besieging the Israelites. He dealt them a serious blow, drove them off and despoiled them.

He also remembered the wickedness of the sons of Baean, who were a menace and a trap for the people with their ambushes on the roads.

Having blockaded them in their town and besieged them, he put them under the curse of destruction; he then set fire to their towers and burned them down with everyone inside.

Next, he crossed over to the Ammonites where he found a strong fighting force and a numerous people, commanded by Timotheus.

He fought many battles with them, defeated them and cut them to pieces.

Having captured Jazer and its dependent villages, he retired to Judaea.

Next, the gentiles of Gilead banded together to destroy the Israelites living in their territory. The latter, however, took refuge in the fortress of Dathema,

and sent the following letter to Judas and his brothers: 'The gentiles round us have banded themselves together against us to destroy us,

and they are preparing to storm the fortress in which we have taken refuge; Timotheus is in command of their forces.

Come at once and rescue us from their clutches, for we have already suffered great losses.

All our countrymen living in Tobias' country have been killed, their women and children have been taken into captivity, their property has been seized, and about a thousand men have been destroyed there.'

While the letter was being read, other messengers arrived from Galilee with their garments torn, bearing similar news,

'The people of Ptolemais, Tyre and Sidon have joined forces with the whole of gentile Galilee to destroy us!'

When Judas and the people heard this, they held a great assembly to decide what should be done for their oppressed countrymen who were under attack from their enemies.

Judas said to his brother Simon, 'Pick your men and go and relieve your countrymen in Galilee, while my brother Jonathan and I make our way into Gilead.'

He left Joseph son of Zechariah and the people's leader Azariah with the remainder of the army in Judaea to keep guard, and gave them these orders,

'You are to be responsible for our people. Do not engage the gentiles until we return.'

Simon was allotted three thousand men for the expedition into Galilee, Judas eight thousand for Gilead.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The whole fifth chapter is dedicated to the undertakings carried out by Judas and his brothers to free their fellow-countrymen scattered throughout the nearby lands and exposed to all the oppressions of the Gentiles who by now had assimilated to Hellenism. There is a continuous crescendo of battles fought systematically in the countries surrounding Galilee. The reason for the persecution of the Jews is definitely religious: “When the Gentiles all around heard that the altar had been rebuilt and the sanctuary dedicated as it was before, they became very angry, and they determined to destroy the descendants of Jacob who lived among them. So they began to kill and destroy among the people” (vv.1-2). There is a broad and violent opposition of evil and its slaves against those who rely solely on God, and thus making relative every human power. It could bring one to the point of killing. This is the story of the massacres that are mentioned in the text and that, although in other ways, continues with the long history of Christian martyrdom. The reaction of Judas is not in line with the behaviour that Jesus asks of his disciples. Judas, who was worried about the increasing number of massacres, organized a first expedition which was directed first of all against the Edomites, inhabitants of Idumea and that tradition traced to Esau, then against the “sons of Baean,” the people who lived in the lands south of Jericho, and then against the Ammonites who lived in the region of the present city of Amman in Jordan. Judas engaged in numerous battles against them. Obviously, the conflicts grew greatly, as well as the hostility. In fact, acts of war multiplied which involved all the Israelites, including those residing in Gilead and Galilee. With a passionate letter they asked Judas to defend them: “Now then, come and rescue us from their hands, for many of us have fallen, and all our kindred who were in the land of Tob have been killed; the enemy have captured their wives and children and goods, and have destroyed about a thousand people there” (vv. 12-13). Facing such requests, and especially with the intensification of violence against Israel, Judas decided to intervene. He gathered an assembly and established that he would go to the rescue of the other Israelites, also involving his brothers in order to widen the offensive to defend all the Israelites.