Memory of the Poor

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

1 Maccabees 14, 1-24

In the year 172, King Demetrius assembled his forces and marched into Media to raise help for the fight against Trypho.

When Arsaces king of Persia and Media heard that Demetrius had entered his territory, he sent one of his generals to capture him alive.

The general defeated the army of Demetrius, seized him and brought him to Arsaces, who imprisoned him.

The country was at peace throughout the days of Simon. He sought the good of his nation and they were well pleased with his authority, as with his magnificence, throughout his life.

To crown his titles to glory, he took Joppa and made it a harbour, gaining access to the Mediterranean Isles.

He enlarged the frontiers of his nation, keeping his mastery over the homeland,

resettling a host of captives. He conquered Gezer, Beth-Zur and the Citadel, ridding them of every impurity, and no one could resist him.

The people farmed their land in peace; the land gave its produce, the trees of the plain their fruit.

The elders sat at ease in the squares, all their talk was of their prosperity; the young men wore splendid armour.

He kept the towns supplied with provisions and furnished with fortifications, until his fame resounded to the ends of the earth.

He established peace in the land, and Israel knew great joy.

Each man sat under his own vine and his own fig tree, and there was no one to make them afraid.

No enemy was left in the land to fight them, the very kings of those times had been crushed.

He encouraged the afflicted members of his people, suppressing every wicked man and renegade. He strove to observe the Law,

and gave new splendour to the Temple, enriching it with many sacred vessels.

When it became known in Rome and as far as Sparta that Jonathan was dead, people were deeply grieved.

But as soon as they heard that his brother Simon had succeeded him as high priest and was master of the country and the cities in it,

they wrote to him on bronze tablets to renew the treaty of friendship and alliance which they had made with his brothers, Judas and Jonathan,

and the document was read out before the assembly in Jerusalem.

This is the copy of the letter sent by the Spartans: 'The rulers and the city of Sparta, to Simon the high priest and to the elders and priests and the rest of the people of the Jews, greetings.

'The ambassadors whom you sent to our people have informed us of your glory and prosperity, and we are delighted with their visit.

We have recorded their declarations in the minutes of our public assemblies, as follows, "Numenius son of Antiochus, and Antipater son of Jason, ambassadors of the Jews, came to us to renew their friendship with us.

And it was the people's pleasure to receive these personages with honour and to deposit a copy of their statements in the public archives, so that the people of Sparta might preserve a record of them. A copy was also made for Simon the high priest." '

After this, Simon sent Numenius to Rome as the bearer of a large golden shield weighing a thousand mina, to confirm the alliance with them.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Having first placed Simon in his chronological context - it was the year 140 BC - the author goes on to praise the young king’s extraordinary efforts for “the good of his nation” (4). The first part of this passage, from verses 4 to 15, uses poetic language to express Simon’s serene strength in government working, as we would say today, for the common good of all. In fact he pursued economic development by opening the port of Joppa, strengthened the nation by extending its confines to the Mediterranean shore, and ensured security by building fortifications. The life of people of all generations came to be characterised by peace and serenity as these beautiful words of the author’s show: “Old men sat in the streets; they all talked together of good things, and the youths put on splendid military attire” (9). Similar serene terms are used to describe daily life: “He established peace in the land, and Israel rejoiced with great joy. All the people sat under their own vines and fig trees, and there was none to make them afraid. No one was left in the land to fight them, and the kings were crushed in those days” (11-13). Simon’s image was that of a man wise and firm in government; and even the administration of justice was marked by great wisdom: “He gave help to all the humble among his people; he sought out the law, and did away with all the renegades and outlaws” (14). Religious life resumed its normal course, and the Temple was restored to its former importance and beauty: “He made the sanctuary glorious, and added to the vessels of the sanctuary” (15). Following this description of the new life being lived by the Jewish people, the author raises the issue of relations with Rome and Sparta, which Simon revived. News of Jonathan’s death had saddened those two allies, but Simon’s ascent to the throne gave them new heart. The Spartans sent him a letter on two bronze tablets to strengthen the friendship and alliance which had already been formed with Judas and Jonathan. The letter, read out before the assembly of Jerusalem, reports the Spartan’s joy at such friendship: “It has pleased our people to receive these men [i.e., the Jewish ambassadors, Numenius and Antipater] with honour and to put a copy of their words in the public archives, so that the people of the Spartans may have a record of them” (23). This prudent international policy was part of Simon’s wisdom in government, and a guarantee of security for the Jewish people.