Memory of the Church

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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 7, 1-24

In the year 151, Demetrius son of Seleucus left Rome and arrived with a few men at a town on the coast, where he inaugurated his reign.

It so happened that, as he was entering the royal residence of his ancestors, the army captured Antiochus and Lysias, and intended to bring them to him.

On hearing this, he said, 'Keep them out of my sight.'

The army put them to death, and Demetrius ascended his throne.

Next, all those Israelites without law or piety, led by Alcimus, whose ambition was to become high priest,

approached the king and denounced our people to him. 'Judas and his brothers', they said, 'have killed all your friends, and he has driven us out of our country.

Send someone now whom you can trust; let him go and see the wholesale ruin Judas has brought on us and on the king's dominions, and let him punish the wretches and all who assist them.'

The king chose Bacchides, one of the Friends of the King, governor of Transeuphrates, an important personage in the kingdom and loyal to the king.

He sent him with the godless Alcimus, whom he confirmed in the high priesthood, with orders to exact retribution from the Israelites.

So they set out with a large force and, on reaching Judaea, sent emissaries to Judas and his brothers with proposals peaceable yet treacherous.

The latter, however, did not put any faith in their words, aware that they had come with a large force.

Nevertheless, a commission of scribes presented themselves before Alcimus and Bacchides, to sue for just terms.

The first among the Israelites to ask them for peace terms were the Hasidaeans,

who reasoned thus, 'This is a priest of Aaron's line who has come with the armed forces; he will not wrong us.'

He did in fact discuss peace terms with them and gave them his oath, 'We shall not attempt to injure you or your friends.'

They believed him, but he arrested sixty of them and put them to death on one day, fulfilling the words of scripture:

They have scattered the bodies of your faithful, and shed their blood all round Jerusalem, leaving no one to bury them!

At this, fear and dread gripped the whole people. 'There is no truth or virtue in them,' they said, 'they have broken their agreement and their sworn oath.'

Bacchides then left Jerusalem and encamped at Beth-Zeth, and from there sent and arrested many of the men who had deserted him and a few of our people too; he had them killed and thrown down the great well.

He then put Alcimus in charge of the province, leaving an army with him to support him; Bacchides himself returned to the king.

Alcimus continued his struggle to become high priest,

and all who were disturbing the peace of their own people rallied to him, and, having won control of Judaea, did much harm in Israel.

Seeing that all the wrongs done to the Israelites by Alcimus and his supporters exceeded what the gentiles had done,

Judas went right round the whole territory of Judaea to take vengeance on those who had deserted him and to prevent their free movement about the country.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The seventh chapter opens a new period in the history of the Maccabees. It begins with the claims of the Hellenized Jews, who resented the success received by Judas in the peace negotiations with Lysias. They took advantage of a new change of guard in Syria and went to Antioch, led by Alcimus, who had accepted the Hellenization and aspired to climb to the leadership of the priestly class. They wanted to meet the new king, Demetrius I, and convince him to put an end to the dominion of Judas. But Demetrius, the oldest surviving son of Seleucus IV, had not received the assent of the Roman Senate. The Romans, in fact, preferred Antiochus V, still very young and easier to manipulate. Demetrius, however, managed to escape from Rome and upon arriving in Tripoli he proclaimed himself as the rightful king. The population of Antioch and the army recognized him as king and welcomed him in the royal residence: it was the year 161. He immediately had Eupator and the minister Lysias executed, and inaugurated a new political era which foresaw also strong repression of the Jews. The Hellenized Jews had a decisive part in this strategy. They immediately warned the new king of the excessive power that Judas had reached after the peace made with Lysias. They said to Demetrius “Judas and his brothers have destroyed all your Friends, and have driven us out of our land. Now then, send a man whom you trust; let him go and see all the ruin that Judas has brought on us and on the land of the king, and let him punish them and all who help them” (vv. 6-7). Demetrius decided to listen to the point of view of Alcimus and sent Bacchides, a trustworthy man of the royal house (“friend of the king”), as governor of the region of Jerusalem, a position already covered by Lysias. Some followers of Judas, including the Hasideans, the “pious”, were persuaded by Bacchides who, as soon as he came to Jerusalem, immediately put Alcimus in the highest position of the priesthood, giving him even the duty to “take vengeance on the Israelites” (v. 9). According to the text: “The Hasideans were first among the Israelites to seek peace with them, for they said, ‘A priest of the line of Aaron has come with the army and he will not harm us.’ Alcimus spoke peaceable words to them and swore this oath to them, ‘We will not seek to injure you or your friends.’ So they trusted him” (vv.13-16a). But repression came immediately: “He arrested sixty of them and killed them in one day, in accordance with the word that was written, ‘The flesh of your faithful ones and their blood they poured out all around Jerusalem, and there was no one to bury them. Then, fear and dread fell on all the people, for they said, “There is no truth or justice in them, for they have violated the agreement and the oath that they swore” (vv. 16b-18). Bacchides left the region and entrusted the government to Alcimus, who tried in every way to keep the high priesthood while venting his hatred against his adversaries. Judas knew that the time had come to act in order to prevent further damage to the people of Israel. He organized punitive raids against the men of Alcimus and all those who had passed over to his side. They were so effective as to force Alcimus to return to Antioch in order to ask the king for more troops.