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 9, 23-49

After the death of Judas, the renegades came out of hiding throughout Israel and all the evil-doers reappeared.

At that time there was a severe famine, and the country went over to their side.

Bacchides deliberately chose the enemies of religion to administer the country.

These traced and searched out the friends of Judas and brought them before Bacchides, who ill-treated and mocked them.

A terrible oppression began in Israel; there had been nothing like it since the disappearance of prophecy among them.

The friends of Judas then all united in saying to Jonathan,

'Since your brother Judas died, there has been no one like him to head the resistance against our enemies, people like Bacchides and others who hate our nation.

Accordingly, we have today chosen you to take his place as our ruler and leader and to fight our campaigns.'

Whereupon, Jonathan took command, in succession to his brother Judas.

Bacchides, when he heard the news, made plans to kill Jonathan.

But this became known to Jonathan, his brother Simon and all his supporters, and they took refuge in the desert of Tekoa, camping by the water-supply at Asphar storage-well.

(Bacchides came to know of this on the Sabbath day, and he too crossed the Jordan with his entire army.)

Jonathan sent his brother, who was one of his commanders, to ask his friends the Nabataeans to store their considerable baggage for them.

The sons of Amrai, however, those of Medeba, intercepted them, captured John and everything he had and made off with their prize.

Later, Jonathan and his brother Simon were told that the sons of Amrai were celebrating an important wedding, and were escorting the bride, a daughter of one of the great notables of Canaan, from Nabata with a large retinue.

Remembering the bloody end of their brother John, they went up and hid under cover of the mountain.

As they were keeping watch, a noisy procession came into sight with a great deal of baggage, and the bridegroom, with his groomsmen and his family, came out to meet it with tambourines and a band, and rich, warlike display.

The Jews rushed down on them from their ambush and killed them, inflicting heavy casualties; the survivors escaped to the mountain, leaving their entire baggage train to be captured.

Thus, the wedding was turned into mourning and the music of their band into lamentation.

Having in this way avenged in full the blood of their brother, they returned to the marshes of the Jordan.

As soon as Bacchides heard this, he came on the Sabbath day with a considerable force to the steep banks of the Jordan.

Jonathan said to his men, 'Up! Let us fight for our lives, for today it is not as in the old days.

You can see, we shall have to fight on our front and to our rear; we have the waters of the Jordan on one side, the marsh and scrub on the other, and we have no line of withdrawal.

This is the moment to call on Heaven, to deliver you from the clutches of your enemies.'

The engagement was begun by Jonathan, who aimed a blow at Bacchides, but the Syrian disengaged himself and withdrew,

whereupon Jonathan and his men leapt into the Jordan and swam to the other bank; the enemy did not, however, cross the Jordan in pursuit.

That day, Bacchides lost about a thousand men.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Judas’ death inflicted a hard blow to the rebel movement which was already partly undermined by the fatigue of six years of incessant struggles. It could have marked its end, if the men sent from Antioch had shown more care and tolerance towards the Jews. The author emphasizes the “great distress” the Jews had to go through after the death of Judas: “Bacchides chose the godless and put them in charge of the country. They made inquiry and searched for the friends of Judas, and brought them to Bacchides, who took vengeance on them and made sport of them” (vv. 25-26). The author’s note makes us reflect about this suffering: “So there was great distress in Israel, such as had not been since the time that prophets ceased to appear among them” (v. 27). In the history of the people of the Lord, both in the Old Testament and in the New, the bond that takes place between the absence of prophecy, the moral weakening, and the growth of oppression and violence is a constant aspect. There was, however, a reaction from the “friends of Judas”, that is, those who had not lived in vain their friendship with the messenger of the Lord. They addressed Jonathan, the youngest son of Mattathias, who was considered similar to Judas, and said, “Now therefore we have chosen you today to take his place as our ruler and leader, to fight our battle” (v. 30). Someone to take the responsibility to fight against the enemies of God was needed. Once he heard about this, Bacchides sought out Jonathan to kill him, but he fled into the desert of Tekoa. Here he reorganized the forces of the resistance and sent his brother John to the Nabateans to save the supplies, but he was intercepted by the “family of Jambri”, was robbed and killed. In retaliation, Jonathan and Simon turned the wedding feast of a Canaan nobleman into a massacre. It is an incomprehensible action in the context of the New Testament and one that can only be classified by considering it within a civilization still not permeated by the fraternity, which can be seen throughout the biblical tradition. Revenge always triggers a spiral effect that is difficult to stop. In fact, once he heard about this, Bacchides reacted immediately and ambushed Jonathan on the day of the “Sabbath.” This time Jonathan did not forget to invoke the help of God, and after having urged his men to battle, he called upon them, “Cry out now to Heaven that you may be delivered from the hands of our enemies” (v. 46). And Jonathan was granted the victory over the enemy.