Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wow! What a woman!

     The reading for this Wednesday of the Thirty-third week in Ordinary Time comes to us from the 2nd Book of Maccabees (2 MC 7:1; 20 - 31).  It is the story of the seven sons and their mother who were brought before King Antiochus and died the death of a martyr rather than defy the law of God and eat pork as the king demanded.  The mother is described by the author in this way:

"Most admirable and worthy of everlasting remembrance
was the mother, who saw her seven sons perish in a single day,
yet bore it courageously because of her hope in the Lord.
Filled with a noble spirit that stirred her womanly heart
with manly courage, she exhorted each of them ... "
     The words she spoke to her sons, which we also heard this morning at Mass, were powerfully incisive:
"I do not know how you came into existence in my womb;
it was not I who gave you the breath of life,
nor was it I who set in order the elements
of which each of you is composed.
Therefore, since it is the Creator of the universe
who shapes each man's beginning,
as he brings about the origin of everything,
he, in his mercy, will give you back
both breath and life,
because you now disregard yourselves
for the sake of the law."
     She also said a few lines later to her youngest son:
"I beg you, child, to look at the heavens and the earth
and see all that is in them;
then you will know that God
did not make them out of existing things,
and in the same way
the human race came into existence.
Do not be afaid of this executioner,
but be worthy of your brothers and accept death,
so that in the time of mercy
I may receive you again with them."
     I have always been in awe of the courage and the witness of the martyrs and prayed to have an ounce of the courage that they exhibited.  The confident assurance and abiding peace of this woman and her seven sons who embraced death rather than lessen their relationship with their God is impressive.  And yet our Holy Father, Pope Francis, in his tweet of yesterday (November 19th) said "The saints were not superhuman.  They were people who loved God in their hearts, and who shared this joy with others."
Our call to witness, since it is usually not placed within the setting of "life or death", should be even more readily embraced by us.  And may we follow the example of the holy men and women of the scriptures and of the Church who provide an example.

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