The officers of the king in charge of enforcing the apostasy
came to the city of Modein to organize the sacrifices.
Many of Israel joined them,
but Mattathias and his sons gathered in a group apart.
Then the officers of the king addressed Mattathias:
“You are a leader, an honorable and great man in this city,
supported by sons and kin.
Come now, be the first to obey the king’s command,
as all the Gentiles and the men of Judah
and those who are left in Jerusalem have done.
Then you and your sons shall be numbered among the King’s Friends,
and shall be enriched with silver and gold and many gifts.”
But Mattathias answered in a loud voice:
“Although all the Gentiles in the king’s realm obey him,
so that each forsakes the religion of his fathers
and consents to the king’s orders,
yet I and my sons and my kin
will keep to the covenant of our fathers.
God forbid that we should forsake the law and the commandments.
We will not obey the words of the king
nor depart from our religion in the slightest degree.”
As he finished saying these words,
a certain Jew came forward in the sight of all
to offer sacrifice on the altar in Modein
according to the king’s order.
When Mattathias saw him, he was filled with zeal;
his heart was moved and his just fury was aroused;
he sprang forward and killed him upon the altar.
At the same time, he also killed the messenger of the king
who was forcing them to sacrifice,
and he tore down the altar.
Thus he showed his zeal for the law,
just as Phinehas did with Zimri, son of Salu.
Then Mattathias went through the city shouting,
“Let everyone who is zealous for the law
and who stands by the covenant follow after me!”
Thereupon he fled to the mountains with his sons,
leaving behind in the city all their possessions.
Many who sought to live according to righteousness and religious custom
went out into the desert to settle there.
As Jesus drew near Jerusalem,
he saw the city and wept over it, saying,
“If this day you only knew what makes for peace?
but now it is hidden from your eyes.
For the days are coming upon you
when your enemies will raise a palisade against you;
they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides.
They will smash you to the ground and your children within you,
and they will not leave one stone upon another within you
because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”
I. THEME: A firm faith will not be shaken by worldly temptations.
Many people in the world today advocate for relativizing the truth. To them, there is no absolute truth, even their faith in God. Therefore, they practice their faith when situation permits; when the situation doesn’t, they think God will forgive! Such a faith will gradually lead them to the point that they will refuse to be witnesses for God when the persecutions happen. In opposition, there are still many who believe they can never relativize the truth and the faith. They only worship the One God and ready to die for their faith.
Today readings show us those who were willing to suffer and ready to sacrifice their life for the truth. In the first reading, the author of I Maccabees continued to show heroic examples in keeping their faith; they were Mattathias and his seven sons. Due to the eager of protecting his faith, he was not persuaded by the promises of the king’s officials. Moreover, he killed a Jew who was betraying God in front of the altar. After that, he gathered all those who were ready to die for their faith, left everything they had behind, and entered a desert to live there. In the Gospel, Jesus knew suffering and death will happen to the people of Jerusalem because they didn’t recognize he is the one who comes to bring the true peace for them.
1/ Reading I: “I and my sons and my brothers will live by the covenant of our fathers.”
1.1/ Mattathias’ attitude before worldly allurements: The author reported: “Then the king’s officers who were enforcing the apostasy came to the city of Modein to make them offer sacrifice. Many from Israel came to them; and Mattathias and his sons were assembled.” Mattathias and his sons were faced the following challenges:
(1) Many from Israel have denied God and offered sacrifices to idols: Those who don’t have a firm faith in God will be easily shaken when they see others betrayed God. They will start to suspect what they believed in. This would not happen to Mattathias and his sons because they had a strong faith in God. He declared: “Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, and have chosen to do his commandments, departing each one from the religion of his fathers, yet I and my sons and my brothers will live by the covenant of our fathers. Far be it from us to desert the law and the ordinances. We will not obey the king’s words by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left.”
(2) Temptations of power, honor, and material gains: Then the king’s officers spoke to Mattathias as follows: “You are a leader, honored and great in this city, and supported by sons and brothers. Now be the first to come and do what the king commands, as all the Gentiles and the men of Judah and those that are left in Jerusalem have done. Then you and your sons will be numbered among the friends of the king, and you and your sons will be honored with silver and gold and many gifts.” Those who live according to the world’s standards are easily felt in these temptation; but Mattathias and his sons knew these things could not be compared with the glorious life with God.
(3) Temptation of protecting one’s precious life: This temptation is the most dangeous one because it threatens a man’s nature to protect his life. One can overcome this temptation only if he believed that God will return his life together with an eternal glory, and if he had a strong love for God.
1.2/ The eager reactions of Mattathias: “When he had finished speaking these words, a Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer sacrifice upon the altar in Modein, according to the king’s command. When Mattathias saw it, be burned with zeal and his heart was stirred. He gave vent to righteous anger; he ran and killed him upon the altar. At the same time he killed the king’s officer who was forcing them to sacrifice, and he tore down the altar. Thus he burned with zeal for the law, as Phinehas did against Zimri the son of Salu. Then Mattathias cried out in the city with a loud voice, saying: “Let every one who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me!” And he and his sons fled to the hills and left all that they had in the city. Then many who were seeking righteousness and justice went down to the wilderness to dwell there.”
We should not so quick to condemn Mattathias’ reactions because Jesus himself did the similar thing. He came to the Temple, and making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. He could not be quiet when he saw people making his Father’s house as a house of trade. Moreover, the law permits people to protect themselves when their lives are threatened. Mattathias and his sons are probably killed by Antiochus if they didn’t offer sacrifices to idols as the king wanted.
2/ Gospel: Jesus wept for Jerusalem.
2.1/ Jesus wept: Incarnated in a body, Jesus fully had passion as a human being. The Gospels reported Jesus wept twice.
(1) Because he had pity for Jerusalem as in today passage (Lk 19:41): In the eighth station of his way to the cross, Jesus stopped to console people of Jerusalem because they wept for him. He told them: “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children” (Lk 23:28). Jesus clearly knew why he suffered; but the people of Jerusalem didn’t know it. The point Jesus would like to emphasize was they should weep for themselves and their children; because of their sins and their children’s sins that he had to endure his passion and death.
(2) Because he had pity for Lazarus (Jn 11:35): Many people believed Jesus wept for Lazarus because he was no longer living in the world. This belief needs to be reviewed because it has no firm foundation. It might be better for Lazarus if he would not return to the world because he will be united with Jesus and share his glory when Jesus resurrects from the death, and Jesus’ enemies had no reason to kill him. Jesus wept because he had witnessed human suffering when they faced death. He would like Mary and all people to understand: “whoever lives and believes in him will never die” (Jn 11:25). If all understand this, death will be a joy.
2.2/ There are two reasons for Jesus’ weeping:
(1) Because Jerusalem’s people didn’t recognize him: At about middle of the Olive Mt. Today, there is a chapel, called “Jesus wept.” The tradition believed it was here, when Jesus saw the whole view of Jerusalem city and its beauty, he wept because he had compassion for the people. They didn’t recognize he is the one who comes to bring the true peace for them: “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes.”
The name of the city, Jerusalem, is combined by the verb, yrw means “to establish” and the noun, salem means “peace.” Jesus came from heaven to establish peace on earth, and he was standing before them, but they didn’t recognize him.
(2) Jerusalem will be destroyed: Jesus continued: “For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation.” This prophecy was fulfilled on 70 AD, when the Roman army encircled and completely destroyed the city and its Temple. Until now, Jerusalem Temple is still not rebuilt and the traces of ruin are still there for pilgrims to see.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We should have a firm faith in life, that is, to love and to worship God above all things. We should not serve two masters even we must sacrifice everything to be loyal to God.
– Men weep because they regret and love. Human weeping can be wrong because a reason for regreting and weeping is wrong. Jesus’ weeping was always right because the reason why he wept is true. We need to find out the reason of our weeping.