Grace to you!
One of the most moving stories in the deuterocanonical books of the bible is the story of the martyrdom of a woman and her seven sons. It is recorded in the Second Book of Maccabees chapter seven. As we had mentioned yesterday, it is suggested the book was written around the second century BC.
The woman and her seven sons were forced to reject their faith. They were to eat pork, which was forbidden in their Jewish religion. As I also hinted during our reflection yesterday, the main issue was not necessarily about whether eating pork is sinful or not, but about the significance of the ritual it represents. The eating of the pork in that circumstance was a renunciation of their Jewish faith and acceptance of the cult of King Antiochus Epiphanes.
The consequence of not renouncing their faith was the death penalty. The woman and her sons were courageous to face martyrdom. One after another, they were brutally executed. This story is sad. It makes me sick in the stomach.
I am, however, attracted by the courage of the woman and her seven sons. That woman is a true example of audacious faith. She was courageous to inspire her children to bravely stand their ground against threats to the most important thing in their life. They were inspired to celebrate the reality that beyond this present life, there is eternal glory.
Life is not all about what we see here and our temporal existence. I understand some people don’t believe in life after death. However, I wonder what the meaning of life would be if there is no resurrection. Or rather, I wonder what will happen when after death one realizes that resurrection of the righteous unto life eternal is real, and eternal loss is also real. A wise person would not be caught unprepared.
From the courage of the woman and her seven sons I’m encouraged to see in my daily challenges, opportunities to live above what holds me down. Hope of resurrection is a blessing.
Martyrdom is powerful evidence that one could live beyond the limiting powers of this earthly temporal existence. Day to day sacrifices borne with the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ, inspires a unique strength, power from above.
Sacrifices borne with Christ produce heroic character. Any person blessed with heroic virtue of courage and endurance holds on even when it seems practically impossible to do so. Reward comes in the end.
The ultimate reward is the grace to see the Lord face to face. It is from this hope that a person of faith streams backwards to every other thing he or she faces in life. The hope of heaven and life in God inspire the righteous’ actions.
I pray that the Good Lord will give us the grace to live and lead like the children of the resurrection. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
[Wednesday Week 33 A: 2 Mac 7:1; 20-31; Lk 19:11-28]
Grace to you!
All around us, we make choices, don’t we? We get to choose our home, our car, our food, and the movies we see. Not all these choices turn out as expected, yet we chose them anyway.
For instance, one may not understand the importance of choosing a comfortable shoe until one wears some shoes that really hurt. The shoes may look fancy and beautiful, but they are heavy and improperly aligned. Because of the look, some may prefer them to a more comfortable, though less lavish shoe. The choice for the fancy over the comfortable has consequences.
In nature, every choice we make has implications—good, bad and ugly. It’s how God has made nature. God desires us to choose from the plenitude of his blessings in the world.
Scripture emphasizes this truth: “If you will, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice. He has placed before you fire and water: stretch out your hand for whichever you wish. Before a man are life and death, and whichever he chooses will be given to him” (Sirach 15:15-17).
Some may say, why would there be many choices for us? Why would God allow evil amidst the good, making the choice more difficult?
My response, permit me, is in the form of a question: Why freedom, why the right to choose if there is only one thing from which one can choose? In fact, the concept of choice would be ridiculous if there were no alternatives from which one could choose.
Moreover, the beauty of being human is that we can choose, just like the beauty of going to the movies is that we can anticipate, select and choose what movie to see.
In nature, God has inscribed the laws, and through Divine Revelation; he has shown us the good to choose and the evil to avoid. Not only did God do it on the tablet of stone in the Old Testament, Jesus Christ came in person to reveal what true life in God is and what it entails.
God didn’t leave it out there for us to second guess and be confused as to what He wants. God equally put in our souls the seed of his awareness, the voice of God and of morality, conscience, so we can choose what is good and avoid what is evil.
The same spirit of the Law inscribed in Letters is the spirit of the Law inscribed in our hearts, enabling us to desire what the spirit of the Law Giver is, both within and outside of us. God has inscribed in creation the laws and their concomitant reward. We receive what we choose.
When God created us, he looked at all He made and it was very good. Meaning, the best possible world ever to be made has been made by God. Creation and the complexity of the moral law follow the laws set by the Creator.
The spiritual law is such that when the law in our hearts responds positively to the law of God outside of us, in the end a holy marriage is made. There is joy and true, transforming freedom. However, when there is disconnect between the law within and the law outside of us, spiritual conflicts arise. Those conflicts reverberate in eternity when we pass.
Heaven is where the law within and the law outside finally become one, as designed from the beginning. Hell is where the separation reaches untold, unbearable proportion of conflict and pain.
May God give us the grace to choose wisely, all the time. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Grace to you!
Probably, you are aware that the Sermon on the Mount isn’t simply The Eight Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are a small fraction of it.
Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount to his followers while he was seated on the rocky hill by the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee; what has been called Mount of Beatitudes. Those teachings are recorded in Matthew 5-7:29. Beautiful teachings.
Some background information: Jesus had come to Galilee after the baptism at the River Jordan. He had performed some miracles of healing; and people, for various reasons, have already started to follow him. As one would anticipate, many were curious; they wanted to know who he was and what message he brings.
During the time of Jesus, when a new figure appeared with unique skills, especially like a teacher, people came to hear him and know to which tradition he belonged. The popular teachers were called the Rabbis.
The Rabbis were respected in many Jewish circles as “authentic interpreters” of the Torah. Many of such interpretations are recorded in the Talmud as well as the Mishnah.
The Rabbis’ teaching style was like a mentor to a mentee. They try to teach the students, their disciples (Talmid), using a unique interpretative methodology known as the Midrash.
The method was mainly through an oral technique, which are more or less easy-to-remember rhythmic sentences and parallelism. The followers of the Rabbi learn from them, and become, after their mentorship, transmitters of the same tradition they share with others.
Similarly, many times the Rabbis teach while seated. So, Jesus, coming into Galilee, and seeing more crowds follow him, seized the opportunity to teach. He sat (like a typical Rabbi), opened his mouth as an “oracle” about to declare some truths, and began to teach.
These imageries are important. When a Rabbi wants to teach something very crucial, he sits. The seating isn’t a sign of fatigue but of authority. This is actually the practice in many cultures. In Africa, where I come from, the elder regarded as a “wise man” sits to teach.
I understand this isn’t the case in modern western cultures, but it is important to recognize why Jesus sat. The teachings were very crucial for our salvation.
You may see a parallel to this practice in the Church’s use of the ecclesiastical concept ex-cathedral. “Ex-cathedral” means “from the seat.” When the pope wants to define a doctrine, he does so ex-cathedral.
However, something was radically different about Jesus’ teaching, namely its contents and the non-verbal cues that were uniquely powerful.
The contents of Jesus’ teaching, as well as the actual delivery, were so different and powerful that his astonished listeners commented at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, he taught as one who had authority and not as their scribes (Matthew 7:29).
What would one have expected from the Incarnate Word, Divine Logos, Jesus Christ, as he delivers his word? “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1) and the Word is Jesus Christ (John 1:14). Jesus communicates who he is and not what he learned from another teacher. He is the Word; hence, such power followed every word he spoke.
Let us look at the first body of teachings from Jesus. It’s what is called The Beatitudes. From this teaching, we know what it means to be truly blessed. So, if you want to be exceedingly blessed, connect with God’s Word and wisdom in The Beatitudes.
The nuggets of “blessedness” given by Jesus on The Beatitudes are eight. So you know, the Greek word used by Jesus translated as “Blessed” is μακάριος (makarios).
Makarios refers to the profound spiritual satisfaction and happiness that thrives amidst any condition, good or bad. It sustains one through pain and sorrows, trials and tribulations. It’s like being solidly established so that nothing would take away your peace, joy and satisfaction. Such a blessing is desirable, isn’t it?
I want such enduring satisfaction so that I’ll be firmly established on God’s Word and graces. I hope you do too.
Blessedness of this kind is far more sustaining than many of the things people spend money on for comfort. It isn’t bought. It is divine blessing, a divine gift. To have it is to be a fortunate testimony of divine favor.
Many people, I suppose, want happiness. They want stability in life. They desire the kind of stability that keeps them so balanced that nothing will take away their joy. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be working so hard to get themselves and their family set for the rainy days. Such stability or favor, one can find by applying the principles in The Beatitudes.
For our private reading, I would recommend we read Matthew 5:1-12, Jesus’ entire presentation on The Beatitudes.
In addition, I would like to hint a subtle point about the eight beatitudes. Two of them, the first and the seventh, promise in the present, with certainty as if in the here and now. The rest refers to what will be.
Here are the two I am referring to. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:3).” And “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). Poverty of spirit and persecution for the sake of Christ, chief of which is martyrdom, grants express access to heaven. It’s wonderful to notice this.
To read more my thoughts on the individual beatitudes, please click here.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.