Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, religious
(II Maccabees 6:18-31; Luke 19:1-10)
Old age suffers a lot. The elderly regularly experience memory loss and loss of friends. Their bodies naturally weaken and they are more susceptible to disease. But seniors need not suffer the loss of integrity. In fact, they have the opportunity to demonstrate the most glorious trait of all – a life surrender to love of God and neighbor. Such is the witness of Eleazar in today’s first reading.
The old man is being tempted to eat forbidden pork. It is not that pork is bad in itself but that eating it clearly defies God’s commandment in the Mosaic law. Eleazar refuses to eat it. Then he is encouraged to feign eating it to save himself from execution. Eleazar recognizes this as an even greater outrage. He would be intentionally deceiving others – an intrinsic evil. Eleazar chooses the high road. He allows himself to be executed rather than disobey God’s law. His courageous deed echoes through the centuries.
Our love for God will probably never be tested to the extent that Eleazar’s was. That itself is reason to thank God. Yet we are called to give testimony to our love for God by giving special attention to the poor and marginalized. When we go out of our way to talk with a lonely person, we demonstrate the love of God just as surely as we would by fasting a whole week.