John Lilburne's journal about 2 Maccabees 7:1, 20-31, today's reading about the mother and brothers.



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0845 L Wed 21 Nov 2001

Today is the memorial of the "Presentation of the Virgin Mary", which has optional readings for Mass. But I am continuing with the usual first reading from 2 Maccabees 7:1, 20-31. Here is the text from the Australian lectionary, which uses the Jerusalem Bible:

There were seven brothers who were arrested with their mother. The king tried force them to taste pig's flesh, which the Law forbids, by torturing them with whips and scourges.

The mother was especially admirable and worthy of honourable remembrance, for she watched the death of seven sons in the course of a single day, and endured it resolutely because of her hopes in the Lord. Indeed she encouraged each of them in the language of their ancestors; filled with noble conviction, she reinforced her womanly argument with manly courage, saying to them, 'I do not know how you appeared in my womb; it was not I who endowed you with breath and life, I had not the shaping of your every part. It is the creator of the world, ordaining the process of man's birth and presiding over the origin of all things, who in his mercy will most surely give you back both breath and life, seeing that you now despise your own existence for the sake of his laws.'

Antiochus thought he was being ridiculed, suspecting insult in the tone of her voice; and as the youngest was still alive he appealed to him not with mere words but with promises on oath to make him both rich and happy if he would abandon the traditions of his ancestors; he would make him his Friend and entrust him with public office. The young man took no notice at all, and so the king then appealed to the mother, urging her to advise the youth to save his life. After a great deal of urging on his part she agreed to try persuasion on her son. Bending over him, she fooled the cruel tyrant with these words, uttered in the language of their ancestors, 'My son, have pity on me; I carried you nine months in my womb and suckled you three years, fed you and reared you to the age you are now and cherished you. I implore you, my child, observe heaven and earth, consider all that is in them, and acknowledge that God made them out of what did not exist, and that mankind comes into being in the same way. Do not fear this executioner, but prove yourself worthy of your brothers, and make death welcome, so that in the day of mercy I may receive you back in your brothers' company.'

She had scarcely ended when the young man said, 'What are you all waiting for? I will not comply with the king's ordinance; I obey the ordinance of the Law given to our ancestors through Moses. As for you, sir, who have contrived every kind of evil against the Hebrews, you will certainly not escape the hands of God.'

The reading highlight the role of a community in faith -- it is not just the son's faith, but he is supported by his mother. Last night I went to the MCG and saw a soccer game between Australia and Uruguay. I have not watched many games of soccer (although I saw Australia play at the MCG in 1997) and am not particularly enthusiastic about it.

But put me in a crowd of 85 000 people, singing the national anthem and heaps of other songs. I was rejoicing with everyone else when Kewell kicked to Agostino, who was pushed, received a penalty, which Muscat kicked.

Against a solid team, the promises of the king for money, happiness and social standing were unconvincing.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 21 November 2001.