daily biblical sermons

Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Thursday, 33rd Week of the Year, November 21, 2013
1 Macc. 2:15-29, Ps. 49, Luke 19:41-44

"But Mattathias answered and said in a loud voice: ‘Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, and have chosen to do his commandments, departing each one from the religion of his fathers, yet I and my sons and my brothers will live by the covenant of our fathers. Far be it from us to desert the law and the ordinances. We will not obey the king's words by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left" (1 Macc. 2:19-22).

So began the Jewish resistance to the anti-Jewish laws of King Antiochus Epiphanes in the year 167 BC. Although many Jews followed and obeyed the king, many others refused to obey these laws. They had three choices: obey the king, be killed for disobeying, or flee to the desert or the mountains. Mattathias and his sons chose flight. After killing, according to the law (Deut. 13:7-10), the Jew who offered pagan sacrifice and the king's officer who was forcing them to sacrifice, he tore down their altar, also according to the law (Exod. 34:13), and then fled with his sons to the mountains, saying, "‘Let every one who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me!' And he and his sons fled to the hills and left all that they had in the city" (1 Macc. 2:27-28).

Such was the zeal that Mattathias and his sons had for the law of God and for their religion, which prohibited offering sacrifice outside of the temple area (Deut. 12:13-14). They chose to resist the anti-Jewish laws of the king, and they fled from the city to live in the mountains and desert. And his son, "Judas Maccabeus, with about nine others, got away to the wilderness, and kept himself and his companions alive in the mountains as wild animals do; they continued to live on what grew wild, so that they might not share in the defilement" (2 Macc. 5:27).

We too should be zealous for our faith and refuse to abandon it, even if many around us have become secularized by the worldliness of the culture around them. In this, Mattathias and his sons are models for us.

How good it is to remain faithful to God, to Jesus Christ, and to all that he has revealed to us in the scriptures! We can give the world the witness of our faith and dedication to God, a witness that can give life to the world around us, instead of us imitating its secularized ways.

How good it is to stand firm in our faith in Jesus Christ who redeemed us with his blood from our sins and guilt by dying in our place on the cross in just punishment for our sins to pay our debt of suffering in punishment for them, thus satisfying God's justice and justifying us (2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13; 1 Pet. 2:24)!

The death of Christ is much more than only a good example of the love of God that we should imitate. It is the act, initiated by the Father (Rom. 8:32), that satisfies God's justice for our sins, propitiating him and expiating our sins (Rom. 3:25; 1 John 2:2; Col. 1:20; Eph. 2:13; Rev. 1:5), when we put our faith in Christ. And we receive and experience this liberation from sin and guilt especially in the sacrament of reconciliation, which personally applies to us the saving, forgiving merits of Christ's death on the cross (John 20:22-23).

Some have forgotten the propitiatory, expiatory value of the death of Christ, thinking that it has only exemplary value. How good it is to remain firm in the New Testament faith in the expiatory death of our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ "who was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification" (Rom. 4:25), and so "has freed us from our sins by his blood (Rev. 1:5)! We need to give witness to this New Testament faith to the world today that has forgotten this. This is the saving message, the good news, the gospel, we preach.


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