Wednesday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time
(II Maccabees 7:1.20-31; Luke 19:11-28)
During persecutions in the early Church some Christians balked at martyrdom. They rationalized their refusal to die by saying Christ sacrificed himself so that they might live. In today’s first reading seven youths reject such sophistry. They give themselves to martyrdom not for Christ but to uphold Israel’s law.
Coaxed by their mother, the young Jews refuse to let fear of death deter them from doing what is right. The passage focuses on the youngest of the sons and the last to die. It is expected that the mother would plea for mercy from the king. Rather her plea for mercy is directed to her son. She asks him to have pity on her by not doing anything vile. The child responds heroically. He defies his executioners and is summarily executed.
Bishops in many nations today foresee persecution of the Church. They realize that ultra-secular governments will not allow people to practice their faith fully. Catholic doctors will be charged to perform abortions. Priests will face criminal penalties if they refuse to witness “homosexual marriages.” Employers today are forced to pay insurance for immoral treatments. These may not be capital crimes. Still the individuals involved will suffer in support of their beliefs.