32nd Sunday – Year C 2019
When babies become more important than their own mothers!
(Fr. P. Madros)
The Books of the Maccabees, refuted by the Jews between 90 to 130 A.D., and by Protestantism, in 1520 A.D., particularly so by Andreas Bodstein, known as “Karlstadt”, (“De canone sacrarum Scripturarum”), express, however, the fine scent of spirituality and monotheist heroism and the glory of the Hebrew people in the face of the violent Hellenization and the folly of Antiochus Epiphanes called “Epimanes”. In here, in a dominical reflection on the readings, we cannot deal with the problem of the difference between the Catholic-orthodox Church on the one hand, and the Jews and the protestant world, on the other, regarding the deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament (Tobit, Judith, Maccabees, Baruch, Wisdom, and Ecclesiasticus etc.). We can only regret the superficiality of the catechesis of some denominations with regard to this issue, at least in the Middle East, in such a way that a good number of “good Catholics” do not even know that a disagreement exists. However, a positive sign of the times exists in the ecumenical edition of the Bible where the different denominations – with Jews of good will – edited and worked out an excellent agreement, despite the differences, by placing these deuterocanonical Books as an annex (as Luther did before their elimination in most of the Protestant Bibles).
In the first reading (2 M. 7:1ff) the Maccabee brothers chose martyrdom over disloyalty to the Divine Law. We read about exemplary sublime concepts regarding the hereafter. We see the supreme sacrifice of life. Another issue, certainly less deep and less important, consists of forcing the Hebrews to eat pork else they would die if they were to disobey! In our days, and often in history, Christians were martyrized precisely under the pretext that they had eaten of such meat and that they were polytheists! We meet again with the like tragedy, a very bloody one, in anti-Christian persecutions in the East and in some countries of Africa, such as Nigeria. In contrast, we see, in some regions of Europe, many a “non-Jew” or a “non-Moslem” (so as not to say Christians!) directly or indirectly obliged not to eat pork and confined to eating Kosher-Halal. It is a matter of constraints that have little respect for liberty, dignity and identity of the individual and his religious convictions (or their lack of conviction!) In here liberty and equality leave a lot to be desired!
So may the only Lord give us strength (2 Th. 2:16ff)
“So may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father…” The name of Jesus precedes (!) that of the Father (like in 2 Cor. 13:13), a blasphemy if Christ were simply a human and was not incarnated in the Divine Word. In verse 17, St. Paul, in accordance with the original Greek, did not use the plural but sure enough the optative singular παρακαλεσαι (instead of the plural παρακαλεσαιεν), στηριξαι (instead of the plural στηριξαιεν) … “so that he consoles… so that he confirms”: “the Father and Christ are one”. This is the grammatical proof!
In the first place comes the memory of the deceased, his posterity, the tribal heritage, the family honor whereas the sentiments of the widow are not so important; this is the Levirate Law (Dt. 25:5ff)!
In the interreligious dialogue, sometimes non-Christians evoke such an attitude (that a brother-in-law should marry the widow of his brother who did not leave progeny) to “prove” the legitimacy of polygamy, so that they would contest – or undermine – the absolute monogamy advocated by Christ!
Jesus did not revoke this “law”! He did not come to abolish.So, he did not adopt the “letter” of the “law” (if this is one), yet he maintained the spirit and the purpose, namely the sublimity of life, the necessity of its continuation in as healthy and as holy posterity, the necessity of the virtue for widows, the need to preserve, as much as possible, a tribal heritage…
But as a law that allows polygamy, be careful! This legislation is not absolute (as in some texts of the Koran and particularly in some biographies). Many conditions and caveats render this legislation relative and moderate it “If brothers live together…” “The brother (who of them?) shall take her as his wife”. This does not necessarily mean polygamy since the brother-in-law, especially if he is younger than the deceased and the only brother, could still be a bachelor.
Once again, there are people who take refuge, like children with their mothers, in the tribal practices of the Old Testament, which today is out of date almost everywhere. Let us not be deceived by the purpose of these assertions that render relative the sublimity and the unique and eternal character of the teachings of Christ, and recede to a chauvinist nomadic tribal mentality where widows were not considered! They were not consulted! They were considered rather like “machines for producing children” who would carry “the family name” (of the husband undoubtedly), the origin of the Hebrew and Arabic word “zakhar”, the male, that literarily means “the one who would be remembered, the one through whom the memory of the father and the father’s family remain”. The female is forgotten. To preserve the heritage of the tribe, the poor widow is obliged (who could have found comfort in the death of her consort who had more or less been an authoritarian and cruel!) to marry someone of his own family, a practice by which the dead are accorded power over the living, male chauvinism and the adoration of children at the expense of their own mothers…
In the Arab world, even Christians, still adhere to that!
So may the Lord shake us up in order to introduce us to the New Covenant, to the “civilization of love”! And may He awaken the West, so conscious of the “dignity of the woman” to the acceptance of life and the beauty of true maternity and paternity, far away from the “unions” that nature had never allowed!