In these last weeks of the liturgical year, as Ordinary Time comes to an end and we approach the great feast of Christ the King, Holy Mother Church asks us to meditate on the end times and the last four things: death, judgment, hell, and heaven. We are in the “end times” of the liturgical year before we begin anew in Advent; fittingly, our readings prominently feature themes of death, judgment, and resurrection. During this time, the Church asks us to reflect on our own lives. Am I prepared for death? How am I to face my end? Will I be “judged worthy of a place in the next world and in the resurrection from the dead?” (Lk 20:35).
Our first reading provides solemn encouragement for those nearing death. The Books of 1 and 2 Maccabees recount the Jewish Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire occupying Judea during the middle of the second century B.C. Our reading recounts the story of seven brothers who refuse to partake in the Greek customs of worship and diet. They are faithful to the laws and commandments of Israel and the One True God, even to the point of death. Their love for the traditions of their fathers compelled them bravely to face death, rather than forsake their ancient laws.
In modern times, we are facing similar circumstances. We are facing a culture that is largely secular, if not openly anti-Christian. There are temptations to forsake Christ and his Church in preference to the illusions of modern society. All that the seven brothers were asked to do was “taste pig’s flesh” (2 Mac 7:1). Some of us may think this a trivial matter to face death for. Indeed in our own times, how ready we can be to abandon seemingly trivial commandments of Christ or laws of the Church in favour of the more attractive temptations of the world. Like the seven brothers, we should be willing to stand up for what we believe in, and not conform to what the secular society wants us to be. If we give up the seemingly trivial matters of faith, how long before major dogmas begin to crack too?
Being Catholic is beautiful in its totality, down to the smallest tenet of the faith. More than that, being Catholic is Good and worth defending. In these last weeks of the liturgical year, with the help of the Holy Spirit, let us search our hearts to find those areas of our lives that are not yet conformed to Christ, that are not yet ready for heaven. And when we find those parts of ourselves that are still lacking, let us rededicate ourselves to God and invoke the spirit of the seven brothers to strive all the more for perfection. For in being made complete by the grace of God we will be able to say with the brothers, “let us rely on God’s promise that we shall be raised up by him” (2 Mac 7:14).
Kevin Ponte – St. Joseph Seminary, Edmonton, Alberta
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