16 Nov, Wednesday of Week 33
2 Macc 7:1ff. The mother of seven sons not only witnesses their martyrdom but even urges them to die out of loyalty to God and to the covenant.
Lk 19:11ff. Parable about a man who entrusts his property to his servants; returning as king, he rewards those who increased their share of the investment.
Belief in the Hereafter
The reading from Maccabees has the clearest Old Testament statement about the resurrection of the body at the end of time. It mirrors the popular piety of a lay group which eventually evolved into the Pharisees, who resisted the theological conservatism of the Jerusalem priests and firmly believed in the resurrection of the dead. This faith did not evolve out of books or scholarly debate, but from a belief in God’s fidelity and from contact with pagan neighbours, many of whom possessed a much more advanced theology of the afterlife than did Israel.
The faith of the Maccabean mother rested solidly on her conviction of God’s faithful blood bond with her and her seven children, which endures through the barrier of death and the tomb. In a vibrant act of faith and love, the mother also confessed faith in God’s creation of the universe. Creation and pregnancy are linked together in her thought: God loves his creation with the same concern that a mother has for a child in her womb, a love that surrounds a person even through trials, death and the new resurrection.
In the Gospel parable, Jesus is likely referring to a king all too well-known in Israel, Herod the Great, who had to flee for his life from Jerusalem, made his way to Rome and charmed the emperor into naming him king of Israel, and then returned to Palestine to take over. The parable warns us that the king will return – and therefore we must be prudent and loyal, industrious and honest, for one day we will be called to answer for our use of time and talents. “Use them or lose them” is a phrase that applies to our human abilities. We can paraphrase Jesus’ words, “Whoever puts their talents to the service of others will be given more; but the one who has nothing he is willing to share will lose the little that he has.”
If we are baffled by the last sentence of Jesus, about the king’s having his enemies slain in his presence, it may simply be because that is what king Herod did on his return from exile. It is hardly that he is warning of a vengeful God, for his central teaching is about God’s power and goodness. The faith he teaches is always of a God whom we can call upon as “Abba, Father!”
First Reading: 2 Maccabees 7:1, 20-31
It happened also that seven brothers and their mother were arrested and were being compelled by the king, under torture with whips and thongs, to partake of unlawful swine’s flesh.
The mother was especially admirable and worthy of honourable Although she saw her seven sons perish within a single day, she bore it with good courage because of her hope in the Lord. She encouraged each of them in the language of their ancestors. Filled with a noble spirit, she reinforced her woman’s reasoning with a man’s courage, and said to them, “I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of humankind and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws.”
Antiochus felt that he was being treated with contempt, and he was suspicious of her reproachful tone. The youngest brother being still alive, Antiochus not only appealed to him in words, but promised with oaths that he would make him rich and enviable if he would turn from the ways of his ancestors, and that he would take him for his Friend and entrust him with public affairs. Since the young man would not listen to him at all, the king called the mother to him and urged her to advise the youth to save himself. After much urging on his part, she undertook to persuade her son. But, leaning close to him, she spoke in their native language as follows, deriding the cruel tyrant: “My son, have pity on me. I carried you nine months in my womb, and nursed you for three years, and have reared you and brought you up to this point in your life, and have taken care of you. I beg you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things hat existed. And in the same way the human race came into being. Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God’s mercy I may get you back again along with your brothers.”
While she was still speaking, the young man said, “What are you waiting for? I will not obey the king’s command, but I obey the command of the law that was given to our ancestors through Moses. But you, who have contrived all sorts of evil against the Hebrews, will certainly not escape the hands of God.
Gospel: Luke 19:11-28
As they were listenig to this, he went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. So he said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds, and said to them, ‘Do business with these until I come back.’ But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to rule over us.’
When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves, to whom he had given the money, to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading. The first came forward and said, ‘Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.’ He said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.’ Then the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your pound has made five pounds.’ He said to him, ‘And you, rule oer five cities.’ Then the other came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.’ He said to the bystaders, ‘Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’ (And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten pounds!’) ‘I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them – bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.’”
After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.