33rd Thursday in Ordinary Time
1 Maccabees 2:16-29; Luke 19:41-44
The account of the rebellion of the Maccabees remains a stirring tale of a courageous rebellion against a superior and tyrannical power. In a certain respect it threatens to be re-enacted today in the East where China is encroaching on Philippine territory, involving a nation that our own country is pledged to defend and to make that clear re-enforced American air power in that country. Like the Maccabees we live in times of international aggression. In resorting to arms, Mattathias, the leader of the rebellion, was honored as a hero of God’s chosen people. It was he who offered sacrifices for those killed in the war, thus expressing belief in their continuing to live in a spiritual world.
When Jesus began his public ministry his own country was subject to Roman authority and occupied by Roman troops. There were Jews who attempted to free their nation from this domination. Far from prevailing, some years after our Lord’s death their renewed rebellion led to the destruction of Jerusalem itself. The Lord himself never favored violent resistance, though he did not make any generalized statement that war is always wrong. In the New Testament where John the Baptist is considered a saint, he does not advise the soldiers who come to him for baptism to leave the army, only to act justly. Saint Peter likewise did not hesitate to baptize an officer of the occupying force with all his family. Jesus himself responded willingly to the request of a Roman officer to heal his sick daughter. Significantly he did not raise the question as to whether the officer was doing wrong to be a prominent fighting man for the occupying power. Our present Pope recently stated that those under attack by ISIS were justified in taking up arms to defend themselves. Our own country has been engaged actively in warfare for some years now and there is no end in view. This passage from the Maccabees remains timely for us today and invites our reflection for the international tensions continue to increase.
The Gospel we have just heard reveals Jesus’ attitude to a Roman officer of the occupying army of his country. He does not hesitate to heal the sick daughter at the earnest entreaty of this foreigner, who had great confidence in our Lord’s power. Jesus responds to his trust. He does not even raise the question of his not being a true believer or of his role as a soldier.
We today are confronted with similar situations as the world of our times confronts us with choices as to what attitudes we are to have in regard to refugees who are coming to our country in increasing number. This issue is a matter for our prayer as well as a practical concern for those who advise guests. May the Lord give us light and strength to carry our faithfully his teaching and example.