Day 285: Story of Hanukkah
1 Maccabees 4:1-35 Badly outnumbered and poorly armed, Judas reminded his army of the power of God and his deliverance of Israel from Egypt centuries before. With this trust in God, they routed their opponents in battle after battle.
Ch 4:36-61 According to this account, Judas regained enough control of Jerusalem to undertake a ritual cleansing of the Temple and to recommence proper worship of God. With great mourning and prayer, the priests removed the profane elements, brought back the sacred vessels, and restored the altars while Maccabean soldiers held off the Syrian forces. The Temple was then rededicated, an event commemorated on the Feast of Hanukkah.
Sirach 10:1-5 Christ taught that all legitimate authority is ultimately derived from the authority of God the Father (cf. Jn 19:11). With leadership comes great responsibility to govern according to moral law, which reflects the eternal wisdom of God. The rights and recognition of every person is intimately linked to natural law. (CCC 1884, 1898, 1913, 2199, 2213)
Ch 10:6-18 Pride, or arrogance, is one of the seven capital sins in Church tradition; the other capital sins include avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth (acedia). These sins are called “capital” because they can lead directly to other sins and vices as they dispose the individual to give in to temptation. (CCC 1866)
Ch 10:19 Each person merits respect for being created in the image and likeness of God. This innate dignity of every individual requires fidelity to moral law. Through sin, the exalted dignity of being made in the image and likeness of God is obscured. (CCC 1700)
Ch 10:19-31 Wealth, popularity, and ancestry are limited goods that pale next to wisdom. True wisdom is rooted in the humble knowledge that everything a person has comes from God. A well-formed conscience and sound, prudential choices reflected in virtuous behavior are some of the marvelous benefits of wisdom. (CCC 2690)
Ch 10:20 Other ancient authorities add verse 21: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of acceptance; obduracy and pride are the beginning of rejection.”
Ch 11:1-28 The virtues of prudence and humility prepare a person to understand that true riches and blessings lay not in the goods and pleasures in this life but in the happiness and reward of the next life, Christ reiterated this teaching by proclaiming that a person’s true treasures are connected to the love of God and are not related to amassing earthly goods foolishly (cf. Lk 12:16-21)
Ch 11:14 Throughout Scripture, but particularly in the Old Testament, the authors attribute both the good and the bad to the will of God. This is an acknowledgment that God is the Lord over all of creation and history. It follows that identification with God’s will results in becoming a beneficiary of God’s providential love. (CCC 304)
Ch 11:14 Other ancient authorities add verses 15-16: “Wisdom, understanding, and knowledge of the law come from the Lord; affection and the ways of good works come from him. Error and darkness were created with sinners; evil will grow old with those who take pride in malice.”
Ch 11:29-34 The brief advice here does not go against generosity or hospitality, which is amply exemplified in both the Old and New Testaments; it advises simply caution and discretion in the face of ill-intentioned strangers.
Ch 12:1-18 Almsgiving and acts of charity should always address the real needs of the poor. Mindless contributions of cast-off items or surplus money may not assist those in need effectively. The presence of evil in the world should elicit vigilance and prudence to identify aggressively those individuals who lead us readily to sin. (CCC 310)
(* The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
That Mattathias taught his sons the story and lessons of salvation history well is evidenced by the fact that after he dies and his son Judas is leading the people, Judas himself recalls these people and events when he encourages his men before battle (1 Mc 4:6-11) and offers praise and thanksgiving for God’s mercy, imitating David’s songs of praise for God’s mercy (1 Mc 4:24).
Here, Mattathias is a model for all parents, especially fathers, who know well and teach their children the story of God and his people in salvation history and encourage their children with the lives of holy men and women who have gone before them.
After the death of Mattathias, leadership of the revolt passed on to his third son, Judas, nicknamed “Maccabeus” (“the Hammer”).
As a military strategist and commander, Judas overwhelmed his enemies.
He defeated more powerful opponents such as Apollonius, the governor of Samaria; Seron, the commander of Syria; and Seleucid forces directed by Lysias, a high official, at Emmaus and Beth-Zur. Judas’ greatest contribution was the recapture of Jerusalem and the Temple in 164 B.C., exactly three years after the incursion of Antiochus IV.
He cleansed the sanctuary, rebuilt the altar, and replaced the sacred vessels that had been plundered (1 Mc 4:36-51).
The reconsecration was celebrated with sacrifices and great fanfare for eight days in the manner of the Feast of Tabernacles, which was the feast during which Solomon dedicated the first Temple (1 Mc 4:52-59; 2 Mc 10:5-8).
Judas and all the people instituted the annual commemoration of the Temple’s rededication on the twenty-fifth day of the month Chislev—and thus the Feast of Lights, or Hanukkah (which comes from the Hebrew “to dedicate”), is kept even to this day.
While not recounted in the text of 1 or 2 Maccabees, the Feast of Lights takes its name from the Jewish tradition that when the eight-day feast of rededication of the Temple began, only enough oil was found to fuel the lampstand in the Temple for one day, but this oil burned for eight days, the length of time it took to prepare and consecrate fresh oil.
(*Walking With God: A Journey Through The Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)
Key Event 54: Purification of the Temple (1 Maccabees 4:36-61)
In response to Antiochus IV's persecution, a priestly Jewish family, later known as the Maccabees, rallies in Judah's defense. Vastly outnumbered, they nevertheless push the Greeks back, win their independence, and rededicate the Temple in 164 BC. The feast of Hanukkah commemorates their victory and the purification of the Temple.
Put on your Yarmulke, it’s time to talk about Hanukkah! So much Fun-ukkah, to talk about Hanukkah!!! 😉
So today was pretty awesome
In 1 Maccabees Ch 4, you might have noticed THAT IS THE STORY OF HANUKKAH!!
You might not have noticed that
It might have sprung up on you in the end, if you didn’t know it was coming
So we have Judas Maccabeus, the people of Israel, and his brothers who are fighting against Gorgias and the Greeks
It is REMARKABLE how with a small army, they were able to defeat a larger, better funded army
That bigger army had thousands of calvary
How were they able to defeat this larger army?
For the same reason the people of Israel were able to defeat other armies
GOD WAS WITH THEM!!
GOD FOUGHT ON THEIR BEHALF!!
This story is from only a couple of hundred years before Christ
It’s almost recent when compared to way back to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
It’s almost recent when compared to Joshua leading the people into the Promised Land
When something like this happened so long ago, we can say, “Oh yeah, I guess God, way way way back when had given Joshua and the Israelites victory in battle, given David and his men victory in battle.”
When it’s more RECENT, we can day, “OH GOSH!! YEAH!! THIS IS LIKE NOW!! (2100 years ago give or take)”
But it CHALLENGES US to see things through the EYES OF GOD as opposed to how WE NORMALLY SEE THINGS
A lot of us see things through THE EYES OF POWER
How many times have we been frustrated in our lives looking at politics in present history, or what is going on in the world at any given time?
We think, “Oh my gosh! I’m so frustrated because I keep focusing on politics. I keep focusing on culture. I keep focusing on other people.”
AS OPPOSED TO SAYING…
“God, show me what you are doing here. God, in all of this you are working and if I don’t notice, if I can’t see that, then I am missing out on a VASTLY IMPORTANT PART OF WHAT IS HAPPENING. I’m just noticing the SURFACE and not understanding, really and fully, the DEPTHS.”
So in 1 Maccabees Ch 4, God comes to the assistance of Judas Maccabeus and the brothers
They come into Jerusalem
This is what reveals a lot about Judas Maccabeus and those who fought with him
They truly desired to HONOR THE LORD
They truly desired to WORSHIP THE LORD
Remember how Nehemiah, Haggai, and Zechariah had to REMIND people, “You guys came back to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. You came back to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. We should do that now.”
Right away, Judas Maccabeus does not need any reminding
They weep at the sight of the Temple having been destroyed
THEY IMMEDIATELY RESTORE THE TEMPLE!!
AS FAST AS THEY CAN!!
At the end of Ch 4, we have the institution of Hanukkah
We have the ORIGINAL Jewish Feasts that were given to the people of Israel through Moses
We also have two new Jewish feasts that have been given to us in the last two books
In the Book of Esther, we have Purim (Do you remember reading about this? Go read Day 280: People of the Covenant in The Bible in a Year Study Guide for a refresher 😁)
And now in the First Book of Maccabees we have Hanukkah
It’s interesting so there you go
Now on to Sirach
Hopefully it’s not too difficult for us to journey through the Book of Sirach
It’s one of those books that is really helpful to have in front of you so that you can LINGER over certain passages
It’s kind of like reading the Book of Proverbs ALL AT ONCE as opposed to reading four verses of Proverbs a day like we have been doing all this time
This is reading three CHAPTERS a day in Sirach
The context for all the advice in Sirach is a FATHER trying to teach his SON how to WALK WISELY IN THIS WORLD
The teaching is WISDOM and the teaching is FOR US AS WELL
THIS IS REALLY POWERFUL!!
Sirach 10:9, “How can he who is dust and ashes be proud? For even in life his bowels decay”
We can find ourselves in the same position where we would say, “Yeah I have accomplished this. I’ve made this. I’ve done this.”
We place OURSELVES at the center
AS OPPOSED TO REALIZING THAT WE ARE DUST AND TO DUST WE SHALL RETURN!!
The footnotes in the Great Adventure Bible say, “The Greek is obscure.”
Yeah, the Greek might be obscure, but we get what the Scripture is saying 😉
Sirach 10:17, “He has removed some of them and destroyed them, and has extinguished the memory of them from the earth.”
Fr. Mike had a spiritual director, kind of out of the blue, and they were talking about what Fr. Mike was doing online
The director said, “You know, no one is going to remember you when you die.”
Fr. Mike said, “Yeah, Father I know.”
The director replied, “No no no. NO ONE WILL REMEMBER YOU AFTER YOU DIE. You are not Thomas Aquinas.”
Fr. Mike was really grateful he said that
If you read Scripture and pray to the Lord, you realize, “he has extinguished the memory of them from the earth.”
How many of us can remember the names of our great grandparents (Yes, I realize some of you do genealogies and would say you remember their names. God bless you. But I’m willing to bet the vast majority of us do not remember their names 😉)
How about a great uncle?
How about a great aunt?
How about great-great grandparents?
How far back can we go to recognize that EVERY ONE OF US, EVEN THE MEMORY OF US
PEOPLE DIE TWICE
YOU DIE WHEN YOU DIE
THE SECOND “DEATH” IS THE LAST TIME SOMEONE EVER UTTERS YOUR NAME!! 🤯🤯🤯🤯
At some point, it will be the LAST TIME someone EVER says YOUR name, FR. MIKE’S name, or MY name
SO GOOD TO KNOW!!
IT KEEPS US AWAY FROM PRIDE!!
Ch 10 goes on to make a distinction between those who are powerful in the eyes of human beings and those who are ACTUALLY WORTHY
Sirach 10:24, “The nobleman, and the judge, and the ruler will be honored, but none of them is greater than the man who fears the Lord.”
Sirach 10:26, “Do not make a display of your wisdom when you do your work, nor glorify yourself at a time when you are in want.”
We could keep going....
Sirach 11:1-6 is SO HELPFUL
A father speaking to his child or a mother speaking to her daughter
Sirach 11:2, “Do not praise a man for his good looks, nor loathe a man because of his appearance.”
Almost like when we heard the Lord say to Samuel when he went to the sons of Jesse, “Do not look at the outward appearance, for the Lord judges the heart.” (Do you remember when we read this? If not, go back and read Day 109: A Heart of Obedience in The Bible in a Year Study Guide 😁)
Sirach 11:4, “Do not boast about wearing fine clothes, nor exalt yourself in the day that you are honored; for the works of the Lord are wonderful, and his works are concealed from men.”
That sense of what’s happening UNDERNEATH…
Sirach 11:5, “Many kings have had to sit on the ground, but one who was never thought of has worn a crown.”
Many kings had to sit on the ground even though they thought they were powerful at one point
There are many people who no one has ever thought of who have been made kings
Sirach 11:6, “Many rulers have been greatly disgraced, and illustrious men have been handed over to others.”
We can go into Sirach Ch 12 which is all about friends and enemies
Here is the advice of a FATHER to a SON as he goes out in the world, “Don’t make friends with everybody.”
Back to Ch 11 😉
(Here Fr. Mike says Sirach 11:11 but this verse is ACTUALLY Sirach 11:7) Sirach 11:7, “Do not find fault before you investigate; first consider, and then reprove.”
How many of us leap to conclusions?
Sirach 11:8, “Do not answer before you have heard, nor interrupt a speaker in the midst of his words.”
MAN!! (OH MAN!!)
“I have an opinion about this…”
Sirach 11:9, “Do not argue about a matter which does not concern you…”
How often is our CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE dwarfed by our CIRCLE OF INTEREST?
We can be SO PREOCCUPIED with what is going on
The father’s words in Sirach 11:10, “My son, do not busy yourself with many matters…”
WHERE IS YOUR CORNER OF THE WORLD THAT GOD IS CALLING YOU?
Hopefully by highlighting some of these verses in the readings of Sirach helps a little bit
GO BACK AND REREAD THEM!!! READ THEM MANY MANY TIMES!!
PRAY FOR FR. MIKE
PRAY FOR EACH OTHER
Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise and glory. We thank you so much. Gosh, Lord, thank you so much for this gift, the gift of your day, this gift of your Word, this gift of this story of Judas Maccabeus and the faithful Jews of Israel who are fighting for you. We know that while Judas Maccabeus and his brothers fought against Greeks, we know that our battle is not with flesh and blood. Our battle is with the Principalities and Powers. And just like you gave Judas Maccabeus and his brothers victory over their enemies, you give us victory over the Principalities and Powers. You give us victory over the dominion of Satan. You give us victory over evil in the world through your Son, Jesus Christ. And in His name we pray. Amen.”