Monday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time
(I Maccabees 1:10-15.41-43.54-57.62-63; Luke 18:35-43)
The alienation of Jewish culture begins harmlessly enough. The First Book of Maccabees relates how the Greek king begins his program of cultural hegemony. He builds a gymnasium so that Jewish and Greek men could know one another as they exercise together. At the gym they also expose their flesh to one another. As the Jews for some reason feel embarrassed, they begin to hide the mark of their distinction. Increasing socialization among the peoples leads Jews to break Covenantal laws. Propaganda then is pitched to malleable children who begin to rebel against traditional ways. Many Jews, perhaps unwittingly, begin to make sacrifices to pagan gods. Then the king does the unthinkable. He erects an idol in the middle of the Temple. If the Jewish people accept this abomination, they are lost.
But they don’t. The Maccabee family together with other faithful Jews rebel against the Greeks. The tale is bloody, but the Greeks are eventually defeated. Regrettably, the Maccabees and their successors prove to be inept rulers themselves. By the time Jesus is born, the more capable Romans control the land. Jesus will begin a peaceful revolution. He will show the people how to worship the God of Israel in the most worthy of ways.
Resisting the alienation of religion requires intensive effort. Many parents today homeschool their children rather than send them to secularistic schools. Wearing religious symbols like a cross helps secure religious identity. Praying together in the home and worshipping weekly in church are foundational. Experiencing the benefits of religion may require even greater sacrifices in the future.