Day 286: The Battle to Choose God
1 Maccabees 5:1-54 Judas and his army attacked various neighbors of Judea in whose territories the faithful Jews were being persecuted and threatened with death. He rescued beleaguered Jews in Gilead and Galilee and razed the uncooperative city of Ephron before returning to Jerusalem.
Ch 5:55-68 Back in Judea, Joseph and Azariah were left in charge of defending the region but were instructed not to attack. When, in disobedience, they sought victories of their own, attacking Jamnia, they were defeated. The importance of obedience to God’s will is the overarching lesson; moreover, docility to God always leads to a good outcome.
Sirach 13:1-26 Many people tend to respect and even adulate the rich and powerful within society on the basis of their celebrity status, while the poor and needy are often neglected. Those who admire the wealthy and elite excessively have a misguided set of priorities. What should elicit admiration are people who try to meet the needs of others humbly, especially the poor and the downtrodden. (CCC 1928, 1931, 1938)
Ch 13:13 Other ancient authorities add verses 13-14: “When you hear these things in your sleep, wake up! During all your life love the Lord and call on him for your salvation.”
Ch 14:1-27 The wise person blessed with riches sees himself or herself as a steward who must use his or her resources for the common good. Those who are blessed with ample material goods must, as a matter of justice, share them with the less fortunate.
Treat yourself well: This exhortation does not mean to selfishly indulge oneself in material possessions; rather, it means to strive for holiness and eternal life. Whatever possessions and riches you enjoy on earth will be left behind upon our death. This truth should serve as a stimulus to fill our lives with deeds of charity. (CCC 2402)
Ch 14:20-21 Every person has the capacity to know the existence of God and his attributes through the light of reason. Furthermore, knowledge of natural law is accessible to everyone, since it is engraved on the human heart and mind. Uncontrolled passion, however, can obscure this knowledge of moral law. (CCC 36-38)
Ch 15:1-20 A virtuous life coupled with joy comes with wisdom. On the other hand, behavior that contradicts wisdom and right reason brings in its wake suffering and anxiety. God certainly does not will unhappiness but permits it as a consequence of the misuse of freedom. (CCC 1713)
Ch 15:14-16 God showers all people with his infinite love, but he does not force anyone to love him in return. Likewise, he establishes a covenant relationship through his Law and Commandments but does not force anyone to obey his Commandments. The gift of freedom, or free will, allows us to choose to follow God or to reject him. Yet, if we opt to embrace his will, he gives us the grace and strength to obey his Commandments. (CCC 1730, 1732, 1743; CSDC 135)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
So have you printed out the Bible in a Year Reading Plan?
Then you are on the second to last page 😁
So Judas Maccabeus continues to dominate
What is he doing?
What is actually happening here?
Remember, Alexander the Great conquered the land and then divided up all the land
Antiochus Epiphanes is a bad dude
While Antiochus Epiphanes is away, Judas Maccabeus is freeing the people of Israel
It is REALLY VIOLENT
It’s easy for us to say, “Well, yeah the Lord was on the side of the Israelites as they marched into the Promised Land.”
It’s harder for us to have a closer-to-modern-day battle and say, “Oh the Lord was on the side of the people? As they fought against the Greeks?”
It’s sometimes easier to think of the Jews coming into the Promised Land and clearing out the Canaanites, Jebusites, Moabites, Ammonites, and Hivites with violence
And it is HARDER in more recent times to be able to see these battles
Remember, we are living in this FALLEN AND BROKEN WORLD
The Greeks had come in and completely destroyed Jewish people
They were out to KILL THEM ALL
In 1 Maccabees Ch 5 we see that the Gentiles were trying to slaughter all the Jews
So Judas Maccabeus is fighting a defensive war
At the same time, it is a war for independence and freedom
Those of us who live in the United States understand that there is such a thing as a war for independence and a war for freedom
Even though war is NEVER EVER GOOD
WAR IS AWFUL
WAR IS HORRIBLE
FREEDOM IS GOOD
FREEDOM IS WORTH FIGHTING FOR
Not only for oneself or one’s family
Also for the ABILITY TO WORSHIP
That’s exactly what their point is, to be able to live as a free people once again so that they can not only be free themselves, but so that they can also BELONG TO THE LORD GOD
So that’s what we get here in 1 Maccabees Ch 5
It’s a BRUTAL book
It’s one of the reasons there was talk about Mel Gibson writing a screenplay to doing a movie about the battles of Judas Maccabeus
We have Braveheart which is very violent
The Patriot is very violent
Here’s this incredible, violent story in the Bible
ALSO SO IMPORTANT FOR US
If we go back to the Book of Sirach we have Responsible Use of Riches in Ch 13
There is such a thing as THE GIFT
There is how to act in presence of others, too
Sirach 13:1, “Whoever touches pitch will be defiled, and whoever associates with a proud man will become like him.” (Pitch is sticky like tar for those of you who are wondering)
ISN’T THAT GOOD, that recognition that people are sticky?
You want to be with virtuous people because you want to get some of that stuck on you
We don’t want to be around someone who is evil because that will get stuck on you
Being around a humble person will get that stuck on you
Being around a proud person will get that stuck on you
Sirach Ch 14 GOSH!!
Every line is just worth TREASURING AND PONDERING IN OUR HEARTS
It starts a little section here that is maybe a bit surprising
Sirach 14:11, “My son, treat yourself well…”
A lot of Scripture has been about maybe denying yourself some things and being really careful with your stuff
Sirach 14:11, “My son, treat yourself well, according to your means, and present worthy offerings to the Lord.”
So don’t spend beyond your means!
Sirach 14:12, “Remember that death will not delay, and the decree of Hades has not been shown to you.”
Death will not wait for ANYONE
Whether you are wealthy or poor
Whether you have taken care of yourself or haven’t taken care of yourself
DEATH IS NOT GOING TO DELAY
Sirach 14:13, “Do good to a friend before you die, and reach out and give to him as much as you can.”
Sirach 14:14, “Do not deprive yourself of a happy day; let not your share of desired good pass by you.”
How often, through worry, anxiety, preoccupation, all of the things that can choke out the life of God in us, do we DEPRIVE OURSELVES OF A HAPPY DAY?
It doesn’t mean we have deprived ourselves of spending money on ourselves
Or relaxing in the sense of not going to work, or not taking care of our responsibility
How many of our days actually, if we allowed them, would be HAPPY DAYS? (Well clearly, Sunday Monday HAPPY DAYS….Tuesday Wednesday HAPPY DAYS...Thursday Friday HAPPY DAYS!!! SATURDAYS!! WHAT A DAY!! ROCKIN’ ALL WEEK FOR YOU!!! 😉)
If we just let them be what they are meant to be…
That’s actually a CHOICE we get to make
Sirach Ch 15 is Freedom of Choice and Its Consequences
Sirach 15:11-12, “Do not say, ‘Because of the Lord I left the right way’...Do not say, ‘It was he who led me astray’...”
Sirach 15:13, “The Lord hates all abominations…”
St. James also says this in the Letter of James, “Do not say that the Lord is tempting me…”
GOD DOES NOT TEMPT US TO ANY EVIL AT ALL!!
Sirach 15:14, “It was he who created man in the beginning, and he left him in the power of his inclination.”
Sirach 15:15, “If you will, you can keep the commandments, they will save you; if you trust in God, you too shall live.”
This goes all the way back to Genesis
Remember when Cain was having a rough day and he was jealous of his brother Abel
He wanted VENGEANCE over Abel for nothing Abel had done
HE WAS JUST JEALOUS OF ABEL
God says, “Listen, sin is a demon lurking at your door. Sin is a dreg, a monster, lurking at your door. But you can overcome him.”
This is what Sirach says as well!!
Sirach 15:16, “He has placed before you fire and water: stretch out your hand for whichever you wish.”
Sirach 15:17, “Before a man are life and death, good and evil, and whichever he chooses will be given to him.”
This is the REALITY for EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US
God has made us for HEAVEN
GOD GIVES US THE CHOICE
Stretch out your hand for HEAVEN
Stretch out your hand for HELL
YOU WILL BE GIVEN WHATEVER YOU HAVE CHOSEN
God has made it possible for us to enter Heaven by his Life, Death, and Resurrection in Jesus Christ
God has OPENED the Gates of Heaven
He has made it ACCESSIBLE to us
God also says, “Ok, stretch out your hand to whatever you want. And whatever you choose will absolutely, ultimately be given.”
I don’t know about you guys, but I WANT HEAVEN
I WANT TO CHOOSE JESUS
I WANT TO CHOOSE GOD
I KNOW MYSELF
I KNOW THAT ALL OF US BATTLE TO CHOOSE GOD ON A REGULAR BASIS WITH EVERY MOMENT AND EVERY FIBER OF OUR BEINGS
FR. MIKE IS PRAYING FOR YOU!!
PRAY FOR FR. MIKE
PRAY FOR EACH OTHER SO THAT WE ALL CHOOSE HEAVEN!!
Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise. Thank you so much for this day. Thank you for your Word. Thank you for your wisdom. Help us to see life through your eyes, to see you through the way you have revealed yourself to us. And help us to see ourselves clearly, so that we can know who you are and know who we are and know what your will is every day of our lives. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”