The individuals in today’s first reading from 2 Maccabees 7: 1, 20-31 are inspiring, most especially the mother. The scene is one of persecution for the faith. As King Antiochus is forcing the Hebrews to abandon their faith for the ‘state religion’ of pagan worship, we find this mother witnessing the torture and execution of her seven sons.
Not only does she encourage them to be faithful to the Tradition during this brief moment of torture, but her words are instruction of faith in God the Creator. I could not help but think of how important the words of the Jewish Mother are for people of faith today. Hear again the words she spoke to her son before and during his time of trial.
Filled with a noble spirit that stirred her womanly heart with manly courage,
she exhorted each of them
in the language of their ancestors with these words:
“I do not know how you came into existence in my womb;
it was not I who gave you the breath of life,
nor was it I who set in order
the elements of which each of you is composed.
Therefore, since it is the Creator of the universe
who shapes each man’s beginning,
as he brings about the origin of everything,
he, in his mercy,
will give you back both breath and life,
because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of his law.”
Antiochus, suspecting insult in her words,
thought he was being ridiculed.
As the youngest brother was still alive, the king appealed to him,
not with mere words, but with promises on oath,
to make him rich and happy if he would abandon his ancestral customs:
he would make him his Friend
and entrust him with high office.
When the youth paid no attention to him at all,
the king appealed to the mother,
urging her to advise her boy to save his life.
After he had urged her for a long time,
she went through the motions of persuading her son.
In derision of the cruel tyrant,
she leaned over close to her son and said in their native language:
“Son, have pity on me, who carried you in my womb for nine months,
nursed you for three years, brought you up,
educated and supported you to your present age.
I beg you, child, to look at the heavens and the earth
and see all that is in them;
then you will know that God did not make them out of existing things;
and in the same way the human race came into existence.
Do not be afraid of this executioner,
but be worthy of your brothers and accept death,
so that in the time of mercy I may receive you again with them.”
May God’s WORD inform us once again today of our Origin. May God’s WORD strengthen us today in faith and our resolve to live in fidelity this faith in times of trial.
Let us pray today for all those who are being persecuted for the faith, that they may remain faithful, and know the reward of the Eternal Goodness of God.