1 Maccabees 4:39, 6-37, 52-59
Psalm: 1 Chronicles 29:10bcd, 11abc, 11d-12a,12bcd
The Reason for the Coming Season!
Today’s reading from 1 Maccabees needs to be read in context. The previous section details how Judas Maccabeus and his far fewer fighters demolished their enemies through God’s intervention. After repairing the Temple in Jerusalem, which had been savaged and desecrated by the Gentile forces, the priests re-consecrated this house of God and all of the people celebrated their life giving relationship with God.
Twenty two hundred years later contemporary Jews will again celebrate this Feast of Hanukah from December 22nd through the 30th. It is a festival of gratitude and joy!
In today’s Gospel Jesus attempts to cleanse the Temple of its desecration by opportunistic vendors who bilk pilgrims who have nowhere else to exchange their money or purchase animals for their sacrifices. As a result, those who are responsible for the care of the Temple and of the people ‒ the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people ‒ see Jesus as a threat and seek to put him to death. Eventually they will succeed!
The shedding of Jesus’ blood is a result of his naming the plight of the people, healing them from their ills, and proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom of God in the spirit of the Law and the Prophets (The Scriptures of the Jews and what Christians call The Old Testament). In this spending of himself Jesus offered all of us new life unburdened by the sins of our past and full of the promise of life in union with God now, in this life, and with all who are one with God.
Very soon Hanukah and Christmas will be here. Jews and Christians are being called, side by side, to remember the amazing things that God has done for us – not just two millennia ago but now, in our own time, and our own lives.
We too are called to name the plight of many people, to promote healing from their ills, and to joyfully proclaim the presence of the Kingdom of God in our midst ‒ by our lives!
Fr. John M. Lee, C.P., is Retreat Director of Bishop Molloy Retreat House, “The Passionist Spiritual Center in New York City”, www.bishopmolloy.org