Wednesday, November 03, 2004

A Bit Too Much?

In Alva, the local newspaper, on Fridays, runs a Christian devotional article. Each of the local ministers are invited to write a brief piece. I have written a couple of others and trying to be Catholic and wiley, I use Catholic images to start from and hopefully borrow into folks' ignorance in the process. This is the one that will run this week.

A bone of contention between Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christians
is the matter of the canon of the Sacred Scripture. Two books that appears in
Catholic and Orthodox canons but not in Protestant canons are First and Second
Maccabees. Without getting into the issue of canonicity, something occurred to
me as I was preparing my homily for this weekend which in part will come from
Second Maccabees.

First and Second Maccabees treats the time period after the Exile in
Babylon but before the time of Jesus. The people of Israel have returned to the
Promised Land but after so many different foreign powers have trooped through,
the place is a real fixer-upper. Furthermore, the people don’t have a king; they
have a governor or administrator appointed by whichever foreign nation is in
power this month. Things are bleak, to say the very least. Second Maccabees
deals with the time when Greeks begin their eastward conquest.

The Old Testament is full of repeated themes. The people repeat the
same error over and over again, thinking, perhaps, that this time it will
actually work. It’s a form of spiritual madness. In this case, the people want
to be like all the other peoples the Greeks have conquered. Anyone familiar with
Old Testament history recognizes this posture. In the Exodus, it was expressed
as a desire to "go back" to Egypt, the place of slavery. In the time of the
Judges it was expressed as a desire to have a king to rule them. So, this latest
unfaithfulness comes as no surprise.

The people abandon God’s covenant yet again. They cover over the sign
of the covenant and begin to practice the ways of Gentiles, worshiping idols and
not observing the customary Jewish laws. At the same time, there is another
refrain that begins to sound in this scene, that of a faithful remnant who
strive to remain faithful. As you can imagine, conflict soon ensues and those
who will not give up the Jewish ways are persecuted, in the hopes of getting
them to "be like everyone else."

In chapter 7 of Second Maccabees, we read the story of the seven
virtuous brothers. Each is compelled to abandon the covenant, and one by one,
they remain steadfast to God’s commands and are killed. Finally their mother is
killed after watching each of her sons being put to death. In the end these
brave people are able to withstand everything thrown against them in the hopes
that God will reward those who persevere with the Resurrection.

Do you believe in anything so firmly that given a choice between
abandoning that belief and death, you would choose death? If we are people who
profess that Jesus Christ is raised from the dead, and those who die in Christ
will rise with Him, then why do we so often set aside our beliefs because of
fear or some other lesser thing?

Charles de Foucault, a Catholic hermit, once made the statement, "Live
each day as though you would die a martyr tomorrow." If we know for what we are
living, each day will not be wasted.

What do you think? Too much?

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