Memory of the Church
Reading of the Word of God
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia
I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia
1 Maccabees 5, 21-54
Simon advanced into Galilee, engaged the gentiles in several battles and swept all before him;
he pursued them to the gate of Ptolemais, and they lost about three thousand men, whose spoils he collected.
With him, he took away the Jews of Galilee and Arbatta, with their wives and children and all their possessions, and brought them into Judaea with great rejoicing.
Meanwhile Judas Maccabaeus and his brother Jonathan crossed the Jordan and made a three-days' march through the desert,
where they encountered the Nabataeans, who gave them a friendly reception and told them everything that had been happening to their brothers in Gilead,
many of whom, they said, were shut up in Bozrah and Bosor, Alema, Chaspho, Maked and Carnaim, all large fortified towns.
Others were blockaded in the other towns of Gilead, and the enemy planned to attack and capture these strongholds the very next day, and destroy all the people inside them on one day.
Judas and his army at once turned off by the desert road to Bozrah. He took the town and, having put all the males to the sword and collected the booty, burned it down.
When night came, he left the place, and they continued their march until they reached the fortress.
In the light of dawn they looked, and there was an innumerable horde, setting up ladders and engines to capture the fortress; the assault was just beginning.
When Judas saw that the attack had begun and that the war cry was rising to heaven from the city, mingled with trumpet calls and a great clamour,
he said to the men of his army, 'Into battle today for your brothers!'
Dividing them into three commands, he advanced on the enemy's rear, with trumpets sounding and prayers shouted aloud.
The troops of Timotheus, recognising that this was Maccabaeus, fled before his advance; Maccabaeus dealt them a crushing defeat; about eight thousand of their men fell that day.
Then, wheeling on Alema, he attacked and captured it and, having killed all the males and collected the booty, burned the place down.
From there he moved on and took Chaspho, Maked, Bosor and the remaining towns of Gilead.
After these events, Timotheus mustered another force and pitched camp opposite Raphon, on the far side of the stream-bed.
Judas sent men to reconnoitre the camp, and these reported back as follows, 'With him are massed all the gentiles surrounding us, making a very numerous army,
with Arab mercenaries as auxiliaries; they are encamped on the far side of the stream-bed, and ready to launch an attack on you.' Judas then advanced to engage them,
and was approaching the watercourse with his troops when Timotheus told the commanders of his army, 'If he crosses first we shall not be able to resist him, because he will have a great advantage over us;
but if he is afraid and camps on the other side of the stream, we shall cross over to him and the advantage will then be ours.'
As soon as Judas reached the watercourse, he posted people's scribes along it, giving them this order: 'Do not let anyone pitch his tent; all are to go into battle!'
He was himself the first across to the enemy side, with all the people following. He defeated all the opposing gentiles, who threw down their arms and ran for refuge in the sanctuary of Carnaim.
The Jews first captured the town and then burned down the temple with everyone inside. And so Carnaim was overthrown, and the enemy could offer no further resistance to Judas.
Next, Judas assembled all the Israelites living in Gilead, from the least to the greatest, with their wives, children and belongings, an enormous muster, to take them to Judaea.
They reached Ephron, a large town straddling the road and strongly fortified. As it was impossible to by-pass it either to right or to left, there was nothing for it but to march straight through.
But the people of the town denied them passage and barricaded the gates with stones.
Judas sent them a conciliatory message in these terms, 'We want to pass through your territory to reach our own; no one will do you any harm, we only want to go through on foot.' But they would not open up for him.
So Judas sent an order down the column for everyone to halt where he stood.
The fighting men took up their positions; Judas attacked the town all day and night, and the town fell to him.
He put all the males to the sword, rased the town to the ground, plundered it and marched through the town square over the bodies of the dead.
They then crossed the Jordan into the Great Plain, opposite Beth-Shean,
Judas all the time rallying the stragglers and encouraging the people the whole way until they reached Judaea.
They climbed Mount Zion in joy and gladness and presented burnt offerings because they had returned safe and sound without having lost a single man.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia
I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia
In a few lines the author tells us about the victorious action of Simon, the brother of Judas. Simon was sent to Galilee to fight against the Gentiles who oppressed the Jews in the region, he defeated them and took those Jews with him to Judea. The author then continues to describe with abundance of details the undertakings carried out by Judas in Gilead. Together with his other brother, Jonathan, he crossed the Jordan and went into the Transjordan desert where he met with the Nabateans. They were people of Arab or Aramaic origins who settled around the present city of Petra. Their main activity was trading and it allowed them to control the caravan routes of the Middle East that went from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea. From the Nabateans Judas received valuable information about anti-Jewish movements and the conditions of the Jews throughout the Gilead. The six cities mentioned in the text are all located to the east of the Sea of Galilee, in the ancient Bashan. Judas decided to attack them. The only obstacle to overcome was the city of Bosor at the foot of Hauran. Here he applied the ruthless herem (v. 5; Num 31:7-12), that is the killing of all males, the complete looting and the general burning of everything. From Bosor, marching all night, Judas went towards the fortress of Dathema where the Jews took refuge to escape persecution. The city was besieged by the men of Timothy, and the next morning they stormed the city. It was urgent to act swiftly and decisively. Judas won the first battle, but Timothy reorganized his troops. The two of them knew that the clash was now decisive. Judas intervened first and broke the deadlock, throwing into disorder the ranks of the enemy troops that could not avoid the terrible fate of the herem. After successfully completing the various raids, Judas decided to lead all the Jews to Jerusalem. Increasing the Jewish population of Jerusalem and surrounding areas was more useful than ever to strengthen their return. Bearing in mind that there were women and children, Judas chose the easiest way and passed on the plateau along the Jordan which ran through a village called Ephron. Their opposition to the Jews resulted in the destruction of the village. How can we forget that the reaction of Jesus was quite different when his passing through a village of Samaria was refused? However, this was an era of the history of salvation in which the whole message of God was not yet understood. A similar thing had already happened at the time of the Exodus with Sihon, the king of the Amorites (Num 21:21-25). Finally, Judas with his troops and the Jews rescued from violence, crossed the Jordan collecting also the “laggards”, so they would not be lost: “Judas kept rallying the laggards and encouraging the people all the way until he came to the land of Judah” ( v. 53). The whole biblical story, until its apex in Jesus, testifies the clear will of God not to lose any of his people. Jesus will say clearly, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me” (Jn 6:39). Reflecting at the end of his life, Jesus says to his Father, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me” (Jn 18:9). Of course, the violent methods used by Judas are far from Jesus’ way of thinking, but the will to save the children of God from slavery is the same. The goal is also identical, as written in the text, “So they went up to Mount Zion with joy and gladness, and offered burnt-offerings, because they had returned in safety; not one of them had fallen” (v. 54). God’s dream for the world was alive even then, that is, to lead all the peoples on the holy mountain of Zion.