Homilette for Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(II Maccabees 6:18-31; Luke 19:1-10)

The word scandal comes from the Greek skandalon meaning a trap or stumbling block. Scandals are moral potholes into which weak individuals may fall and injure themselves. We see scandal in the well-substantiated reports of American officials torturing Muslim detainees after 9-11. Such immoral behavior belies human dignity. Unless it is repudiated soon, future generations of Americans will accept the fallacy that torture is acceptable and even beneficial.

In the first reading today we find a counter-example. Eleazar, a ninety year-old Jew, refuses to give scandal to younger Jews who might be inclined to compromise the integrity of their faith. Rather than feigning to eat pork by substituting kosher meat for it, he decides that he would rather die at the hands of his persecutors. The noble stand has not only won Eleazar Maccabees a place in heaven; it has also become an example of righteousness and integrity for all history.

We should look to the elderly for guidance on what truly matters. Chastened by experience, they might remind younger generations that God counts above all and that our neighbors deserve as much of our love as we have for ourselves. In the upcoming holiday season they will hopefully show us again that our first obligation is to give thanks to God for all that we have. Then let them demonstrate how continued and caring concern for others outshines diamonds as gifts.