Day 300: Conversion of Heart
2 Maccabees 3:1-40 The author placed blame for the desecration of the Temple on the high priest of the time since God’s protection of the Temple depended on his fidelity to the Law. For example, when Onias had been high priest, a vision exhibiting God’s power deterred Heliodorus and his bodyguards from taking the Temple’s treasury, which made a believer out of Heliodorus, who testified to the king about the might of the God of Israel. Such testimony is the obligation of every believer; in many instances, conversion and trust in God is prompted by the living witness of the faithful. (CCC 166)
Proverbs 24:11-12 These verses hint at an eternal reward that awaits the faithful after death. We also see a strong exhortation against “turning a blind eye” to injustice rather than taking action to stop or prevent it. To “requite” in this maxim refers to the blessing of a long life, but it can also be seen as pointing toward eternal life. (CCC 2269)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
Guess what day it is?
Soak it in!!
YOU have reached DAY 300!
There are 65 days left and you’ve gotten this far!
KUDOS TO YOU AND EVERYONE ELSE READING THIS!!
OK GOSH YOU GUYS!!
Did Fr. Mike not say that 2 Maccabees is MASSIVELY DIFFERENT than 1 Maccabees
We expected that to be the case
They are telling two different sides of the story
SO GOOD THESE FIRST THREE CHAPTERS ALREADY!!
THEY ARE GOING TO GET BETTER AND BETTER!!
Because, as we said, 1 Maccabees is just telling the story from kind of a...not necessarily a secular point of view, but the...point of view that doesn’t necessarily acknowledge that God is ACTIVE and PRESENT in all these things
2 Maccabees that is making it ABSOLUTELY CLEAR that GOD IS COMPLETELY ACTIVE IN ALL OF THIS
So we meet Onias the high priest, who was holy and did good things
Simon from the Tribe of Benjamin had been made captain of the Temple
He disagreed with Onias about administrative stuff (would probably have made for a fun episode of The Office 😉)
So basically, he...GOSH!!
Think about the ways in which this happens to US
There is some kind of argument
There is some kind of disagreement
And someone says, “You know what? If I can take this person down in any way, shape, or form I’m going to take him down.”
That’s what Simon, of the Tribe of Benjamin, tries to do
He goes to Apollonius of Tarsus, who was governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia and basically says, “Yeah, you know the Temple has a bunch of money that they are not giving to the king because the King Seleucis had defrayed costs…” and all these kinds of things
So he says, “Let’s send Heliodorus…”
Because Apollonius goes to the king and says, “Actually, they’ve got all this money…”
So he sends Heliodorus with the command to bring back money
Onias meets him and says, “Yeah, we don’t have a ton of money. Actually the Temple treasury, that is not dedicated to the Lord. That is for the well being…[basically they’re the bank saying…] We’re keeping this kind of money for widows and orphans. And there’s a couple of people here like Hyrcanus, son of Tobias. He’s got some money here too, but we’re holding it in trust for him. We can’t just give it away because he gave it to us trusting us that we would care for it. This money goes to widows and orphans. We can’t just give it away to the king because it goes to take care of the people that are disadvantaged here, the people who are NEEDING THIS.”
There is all this DISTRESS
THIS IS INCREDIBLE!!
Remember, we didn’t get this in 1 Maccabees
What it shows is the people then go to the Temple
They prostrate themselves before the Lord
They are WEEPING and WAILING
Women come out
Even young maidens come out
Even if they had to keep indoors, they are going to the windows
They are PRAYING TOWARDS THE TEMPLE
THAT GOD HEARS THEIR PRAYER
AND HERE’S THE THING…
GOD DOES ACTUALLY HEAR THEIR PRAYER
AND THE LORD PROTECTS HIS TEMPLE
So what happens?
Heliodorus is there and he has this massive vision
AND THE VISION ACTUALLY BEATS HIM UP!!
He is in danger of death
Onias offers the sacrifice and the same vision returns to him and says, “Listen, buddy. You better praise the Lord! You better thank Onias, because he interceded on your behalf. And now you’ll be healed.”
Then Heliodorus has a CONVERSION
Heliodorus basically says (in paraphrase), “I worship no God but the God alone.”
We can hear this and say, “That’s amazing.”
We heard stories in 1 Maccabees that didn’t involve God doing anything miraculous
It just involved people like Judas Maccabeus going to battle
His brothers going to battle
We didn’t necessarily see, “Here is the Lord fighting for His People.”
Part of us can realize that this is how we do this
Sometimes we look at our lives and we look at them like 1 Maccabees
Here are the details
I’m looking at this with a worldview that simply says, “Yep. This is what happened today.”
We are CALLED to look at our lives through the vision of 2 Maccabees
Where we say, “God, this is my day. Yup, this is what happened in the course of this day. Where were you? Where were your small moments of Grace?”
EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US
HAS THESE MOMENTS OF GRACE
EVERY SINGLE DAY OF OUR LIVES
Maybe not big massive visions
They could be small PROMPTINGS of GRACE
Where the Lord RESPECTS OUR FREE WILL and he NUDGES US
He either NUDGES US this way
He NUDGES us away
If we might be in danger of saying, “Does God really do that?”
Does God really have those kinds of big moments?
We have to say, “ABSOLUTELY!”
There are people in this Bible in a Year community and this has been part of your experience
The Lord has given you AN UNMISTAKABLE SIGN
For example, here’s St. Paul/Saul who is on his way to persecute Christians
On the way there, Jesus appears to him and stops him from doing this
There’s a story that is so incredible
St. Mary of Egypt at one point was a prostitute
The reason why, which she even says in her own biography, “There are some people who enter into prostitution because they’re forced into it, because they are desperate. Some were forced into it against their will.”
We all know the reality of the sex trade/sex slavery kind of thing
Mary of Egypt said, “I did it because I enjoyed it. I was bound by this.”
At one point, Mary of Egypt decided to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the Holy Land
THAT IS CRAZY!!
Why would she want to do this?
She just kind of had an impulse to go and visit Israel
She wanted to visit Jerusalem
This gets really dark...well it’s already dark...but it gets even darker
She joins up with a group of pilgrims who were leaving from wherever she lived in Egypt...Fr. Mike thinks it was Egypt…
She goes to Jerusalem
She pays her way on this pilgrimage by prostituting herself to other pilgrims
Which gets dark
“Wait a second. You’re on a pilgrimage to go to the Holy Land, for crying out loud! How does this even happen?”
In this case, you would say, “You know, broken people take PILGRIMAGES. Broken people take RETREATS. Broken people PRAY ON A DAILY BASIS.”
Some of that BROKENNESS remains BROKEN
Fr. Mike thought, “OH MY GOSH! Really?”
It broke his heart to realize that
So Mary gets to Jerusalem and walks into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a big church that is built over GOLGOTHA, the spot where Jesus was CRUCIFIED, and over the TOMB
IT IS A MASSIVE CHURCH
Between Golgotha and the Tomb, you could throw a rock
Fr. Mike maybe
It’s not that far apart
So this church is built over the tomb and Golgotha, called Calvary
Mary tries to walk into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
She is PREVENTED
SHE CAN’T ACTUALLY WALK INTO THE CHURCH!!
She’s PHYSICALLY PREVENTED
It’s kind of like Heliodorus here
He’s walking into the Temple and he is going to seize the property
The Lord God STOPS HELIODORUS
The Lord God STOPPED MARY OF EGYPT
It was one of those things
She was going to CONTINUE ON HER WAY
She was BOUND by this sin
It was NOT something she was FORCED into
It was NOT something she was DESPERATE TO DO
It was something that SHE HERSELF WAS BOUND BY
She said she was bound by LUST and it had a hold on her
She was PREVENTED FROM GOING IN
She realized, for the first time ever, “This is what my sin has done to me. This is what I have done to myself in choosing this sin over and over and over again. Access to God has been made impossible for me. I no longer have access to the Lord.”
So it broke her heart and she begins weeping
She realizes, “I’m on the outside and if I die like this, I will die on the outside. I will spend my eternity away from God.”
So what does she do?
Fr. Mike thinks there was this image of Mary, the Mother of God, the Mother of Jesus
Mary of Egypt saw this image and said, “Mary, please pray for me. Intercede for me with your Son, Jesus. Intercede for me with the Father in Heaven.”
She had a conversion RIGHT THERE
She had this MASSIVE MOMENT where her heart was BROKEN BY THE MERCY OF JESUS CHRIST
THROUGH THIS INTERCESSION OF OUR LADY!!
She went to confession and she was reconciled to the Lord
She was reconciled to the Church
She spent the rest of her life in the desert, which is why she was named Mary of Egypt
That’s why Fr. Mike should have looked up where she originally came from
She spent the rest of her life DOING PENANCE IN THE DESERT IN EGYPT
At one point there was a priest in the wilderness, living in retreat essentially, and he came upon this woman, Mary
She told him her story
That’s how we have the story of St. Mary of Egypt
The Lord INTERCEDED and INTERVENED on her behalf
IN A MIRACULOUS WAY
JUST LIKE THE LORD INTERCEDED AGAINST HELIODORUS
FOR HIS SAKE
ALSO FOR THE SAKE OF THE PEOPLE
HOPE THAT MAKES SENSE
WHAT A GIFT!!
Last little gift in Sirach Chs 45 and 46
We have people and we know their stories
We know the story of Samuel
We know the story of Aaron
We know the story of Moses
It’s great to hear Sirach talking, once again, about these incredible people of faith
Now we know their stories
We have been listening to the Word of God for 300 DAYS and we KNOW WHO THESE PEOPLE ARE
WHAT A GIFT IT IS FOR US!!
AND FOR EVERYONE WHO GETS TO HEAR AND READ THE WORD OF GOD!!
We get to know our INHERITANCE
Our PATRIMONY is THIS STORY
WHAT A GIFT!!
Hopefully the story of St. Mary of Egypt has blessed you today
What God has done for HER
What God has done for HELIODORUS
What God has done for SO MANY PEOPLE
What God has done for SAUL/ST. PAUL
GOD WANTS TO DO FOR YOU AND FOR ME!!
We have some things maybe we are holding on to that make it so we can’t have access to the Father’s Heart
Or we can’t have (access) to the Temple
We ALWAYS have access though
If you have been BAPTIZED, you are God’s adopted sons and daughters
There may be SOME THINGS that we are HOLDING ON TO
THAT ARE PREVENTING US from getting CLOSE to the Father
So what do we do?
WE APPEAL TO JESUS NAME!!
WE CAN PRAY!!
WE CAN ASK OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS TO PRAY FOR US!!
WE CAN ASK MARY, WHO WAS GIVEN TO US FROM THE CROSS AS OUR MOM, WE CAN ASK HER TO PRAY FOR US!!
WE CAN PRAY FOR EACH OTHER THAT WE HAVE ACCESS TO THE FATHER!!
PRAY FOR FR. MIKE
FR. MIKE IS PRAYING FOR YOU!!
Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise. Thank you, God. Thank you so much. Gosh, Lord God, you are present always. And sometimes we can see your work and sometimes we can’t. Sometimes we can see your presence in your action and sometimes we can’t. So please, Lord God, today give us the grace, give us the grace to be able to see that even when you are hidden, you are still present. And even like, when we prayed before, when it seems like you’re not doing anything, that you are always active. So we praise your name. Help us to have eyes to see. But even when we don’t see, help us to have the heart that trusts. Help us to have a heart that trusts, even when we don’t see. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”