Our Mass readings this week from the Second Book of Maccabees grant more scriptural basis of the true nature of the human person rooted in their relationship with God. As Eleazar faces the threat of death should he not abandon the faith for the pagan practices of a new regime, he reflects upon this “life giving” Origin of his own life: he declared that above all he would be loyal to the holy laws given by God.
Even if, for the time being, I avoid the punishment of men, I shall never, whether alive or dead, escape the hands of the Almighty. Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now, I will prove myself worthy of my old age, and I will leave to the young a noble example of how to die willingly and generously for the revered and holy laws.
As we hear more from this Second Book of Maccabees today, we have a marvelous witness of a mother of seven sons, all of whom refused to recant their faith. The mother encourages her sons in this time of trial in the following 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.
As her youngest and last son nears death, she exhorts him with these final words:
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.
The wisdom of these two interlocutors of God’s Word will hopefully assist more people of our own time to acknowledge that the child in the womb is a creation of God, destined for a relationship with the One and same God. Hopefully, the power of God’s Word will grant the grace to more of God’s people to acknowledge the reality of God through the beauty and harmony of all creation, and through it to see the ultimate truth of One Creator, God.
As we grow in our own self-awareness in relationship to God, so shall we grow in self-fulfillment and completion, as it is only through God, and his Son, Jesus Christ, that we are capable of acheiving the summit of our human existence, which is life in God. It is this relationship that sustains us and strengthens our virtue and courage to give witness today, as did Eleazar and the mother of these seven sons in the Book of Maccabees.
These final days of the liturgical season call us to look at death as the final breath of this life’s journey, but only the first of many in the Life Eternal. Such a faith-vision of death, allows us to utter the words of the Psamist today: Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full. May we live with such hopeful expectation, joyfully giving witness to Jesus Christ and our faith in Him.