Happy New Year!

Happy December 3 New Year!

Yes, this weekend we’ll enjoy the last day of the year and the first of next year, the Liturgical Year that is.

We celebrated the last Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, November 26, 2017. This next Sunday, we’ll celebrate the first Sunday of the new year, the first Sunday of Advent, in preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus, Christmas.

The last Sunday of the Liturgical Year can fall between the dates of November 20 and the November 26.

For the past month or so, the Church’s selection of daily liturgic readings have reflected on the end times and judgment, for which we all need to prepare. The only time the readings do not reflect on this subject is if a Memorial or Feast day occurs, then other readings are selected that relate to that celebration.

This year that happened several times, so we did not hear all the readings from Maccabees proclaimed.

Some of my favorite Scripture readings come from the First and Second Books of Maccabees. These are historical books that record the invasion and conquest of Greek kingdoms over Judah, and the struggles and recovery of Judah by the faithful Jewish family of Judas Maccabee.

From these books, we hear of the persecution of the faithful Jews who were willing to die for their faith rather than defile themselves by following the laws of the invading Kings Seleucus IV, Antiochus IV, and John Hyrcanus I, from about 180 BC to 134 BC.

The readings for the second to last week of Ordinary Time, unless substituted for a Memorial or Feast day reading, are selected to encourage us to remain faithful in the end times and times of temptation.

My favorite of these readings is about the martyrdom of a mother and her seven sons from the Second Book of Maccabees 7:1-31. The mother and her sons were arrested and tortured with whips and scourges to force them to eat pork, which was in violation of God’s law, before Christianity.

The sons and mother refused to eat the pork and accepted death. The king ordered each of the sons to a horrifying, slow death in the presence of the mother. Rather than exhibiting weakness, she encourages each to die as a faithful servant of God rather than obey the conquering king.

I think of Our Blessed Mother, Mary, having to watch her son die on the cross right before her eyes. We can only imagine the sorrow, yet pride, the unnamed mother of seven sons suffered while she watched each of them murdered. She then faced the same penalty and was killed.

Another of the readings from Maccabees that I find inspiring is 2 MC 6:18-31. It details the torture and death of Eleazar, an elderly, revered Jewish scribe. Because of their long acquaintance with him, the occupying forces offered him the opportunity to prepare kosher meat that they would give him. This way he would only pretend to eat pork, thus saving himself. This suggestion to him was just as offensive as eating the pork.

His response:

“‘At our age it would be unbecoming to make such a pretense; many of the young would think the ninety-year-old Eleazar had gone over to an alien religion. 25If I dissemble to gain a brief moment of life, they would be led astray by me, while I would bring defilement and dishonor on my old age. 26Even if, for the time being, I avoid human punishment, I shall never, whether alive or dead, escape the hand of the Almighty. 27Therefore, by bravely giving up life now, I will prove myself worthy of my old age, 28and I will leave to the young a noble example of how to die willingly and nobly for the revered and holy laws.’

He spoke thus, and went immediately to the instrument of torture.

(2 MC 6:24-28)

He preferred a glorious death to a life of defilement.

Could we do the same as both the mother of seven sons and Eleazar? We have to prepare for such things. The Church reads these stories at this time to remind us that we may face the same temptations before our death. We may not face torture and murder as those in the readings or the 21 martyrs by ISIS in Libya in 2015, but we do not know what temptations Satan will hold for us before we die.

We need to know our faith and then stand firm for it, resisting all temptations to take the easy way out to avoid hardships. May we all persevere and defend our faith in the New Year!