daily biblical sermons

Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Monday, 33rd Week of the Year, November 18, 2013
1 Macc. 1:10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-64, Ps. 118, Luke 18:35-43

"But many in Israel stood firm and resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food. They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die. And very great wrath came upon Israel" (1 Macc. 1:62-64).

This was the Hellenization of the Seleucid kingdom under King Antiochus Epiphanes in the year 167 BC. To unify his kingdom he wanted all of his subjects to be of the same religion, and so he outlawed Judaism. He erected the desolating sacrilege upon the altar of burnt offerings in the temple in Jerusalem, that is, an altar to Olympian Zeus, built altars for sacrifice in the cities of Judah against the law that required that there be only one altar of sacrifice, ordered that unclean animal such as pigs be sacrificed, destroyed the books of the law, and killed women who had their sons circumcised. He also tried to force the Jews to eat pork against the law and to defile the Sabbath. Many Jews followed these new laws, but many others stood firm and resisted them. These latter preferred to die rather than violate the law of God; and many died.

This was a situation of extreme religious persecution, but many remained faithful to their religion and to God's laws, and refused to follow the king's anti-Jewish policy.

We now live in a secularized world, and as many Jews in the days of the Maccabees submitted to the anti-Jewish laws of the king, so many Christians today, many within the Church today, have accepted the secularized ways of the culture around us and live as secularized persons in many ways.

What are we to do in this situation that is going on all around us? Are we to join those who are imitating the world and today's culture that is so secularized, or are we to resist this movement of secularization? Are we to stand firm like the Maccabees, or are we to give in and imitate the world like so many? This is a serious problem that is facing the Church today.

We have seen, for example, the results of the secularization of priestly and religious life in our own day, namely that there are now practically no vocations. No one wants to join the religious and priestly communities that have secularized themselves, where the members look and live like the world around them. This secularization of religious, priestly, and consecrated life has been a disaster for the Church.

Religious and priestly communities that have resisted this trend of secularization are flourishing and attracting many vocations, as everyone knows; while those communities that have surrendered to the pressure of the culture are dying and are no longer able to attract vocations.

What we need to do is to stand firm in our dedication to God and live like consecrated persons. We need to live a simple life of evangelical poverty, seeking all our delight in the Lord, not in the pleasures of the world. We need to value silence in our life for prayer and contemplation and should have a spirit and practice of quiet, prayerful recollection in all our community houses. We need to dress as priests and consecrated persons as a constant reminder both to ourselves and to others of who we are and how we are to live, and we should give this important witness to the world around us that has forgotten God. We need to be like the faithful Jews in the days of the Maccabees and resist this new trend of secularization that is killing us.


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