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TODAY’S BIBLE READING (GALATIANS 2:1-2, 7-14)

(Week 27 of the year: Wednesday)

THEY RECOGNISED THE GRACE GOD HAD GIVEN TO ME.

Then, after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus with me.

And I went up according to revelation; and communicated to them the gospel, which I preach among the Gentiles, but apart to them who seemed to be some thing: lest perhaps I should run, or had run in vain.

But contrariwise, when they had seen that to me was committed the gospel of the uncircumcision, as to Peter was that of the circumcision.[*]

(For he who wrought in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, wrought in me also among the Gentiles.

And when they had known the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship: that we should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision:

Only that we should be mindful of the poor: which same thing also I was careful to do.

But when Cephas was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.

For before that some came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them who were of the circumcision.

And to his dissimulation the rest of the Jews consented, so that Barnabas also was led by them into that dissimulation.

But when I saw that they walked not uprightly unto the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all: If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as the Jews do, how dost thou compel the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?

V. The word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

[*] “The gospel of the uncircumcision”. The preaching of the gospel to the uncircumcised, that is, to the Gentiles. St Paul was called in an extraordinary manner to be the apostle of the Gentiles; St Peter, besides his general commission over the whole flock (John 21:15 etc.) had a peculiar charge of the people of circumcision, that is, of the Jews.

 
 

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TODAY’S BIBLE READING II (ROMANS 11:13-15, 29-32)

(20. Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A)

WITH ISRAEL, GOD NEVER TAKES BACK HIS GIFTS OR REVOKES HIS CHOICE.

For I say to you, Gentlies: as long indeed as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I will honour my ministry.

If, by any means, I may provoke to emulation them who are my flesh, and may save some of them.

For if the loss of them be the reconciliation of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?

For if the firstfruit be holy, so is the lump also: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.

For the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance.

For as you in times past did not believe God, but now have obtained mercy, through their unbelief;

So these also now have not believed, for your mercy, that they also may obtain mercy.

For God hath concluded all in unbelief, that he may have mercy on all.

V. The word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

ALLELUIA

Alleluia, alleluia!
The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice,
says the Lord,
I know them and they follow me.
Alleluia!

 
 

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“MY FATHER WORKS EVEN UNTIL NOW, AND I WORK” (Jn 5:17)

THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MEN AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: THE FORMATION OF THE DISCIPLES

“The first year of the public ministry of Jesus ended in failure. Most of those who had followed Him deserted Him. His miracles had excited their admiration and raised their hopes of deliverance from Roman rule. But His refusal to conform to their idea of a triumphant political Messias had alienated their allegiance to Him. He had offered Himself to them as the ‘Bread of Life,’ but they had refused to accept Him.

SOME FEW REMAINED FAITHFUL TO JESUS

Some few remained faithful to Him, especially the Apostles. They refused to leave Him, saying, ‘To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.’ By so acting they cut themselves off from the majority of their fellow-countrymen. Jesus Himself knew, as He had indeed said, that He would be rejected by His own countrymen. From this time on He would continue to preach His message of salvation in the spiritual Kingdom of God. Only now He would seek to increase in His faithful Apostles and disciples the true understanding of the kingdom which He was to establish. He would show them how different was this kingdom from the earthly kingdom and domination sought by His countrymen.

A SPIRITUAL KINGDOM

Some time after the discourse on the ‘Bread of Life,’ Jesus went to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. Almost at once He came into conflict with His enemies. At the pool called Bethsaida, near the Sheepgate in Jerusalem, Jesus cured a man who had been a paralytic for thirty-eight years. He told the man to pick up the pallet on which he had been lying and to walk home. Now He did this on a Sabbath day. The Jews, on learning that He had done this, were angry. In their eyes Jesus had broken the law of the Sabbath-day rest. He had Himself worked the miracle and He had even ordered the cured man to carry his pallet. When they objected to this, Jesus replied, ‘My Father works even until now, and I work’ (John 5:17).

The Jews understood Him to mean that He was equal to God. Since they perceived Him only a man, they regarded His claim as blasphemy. Hence they determined to oppose Him.

THE JEWS DETERMINED TO OPPOSE JESUS

Jesus, for His part, was kind to them and He tried to explain His position clearly. ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever he does, this the Son also does in like manner’ (John 5:19).

By saying that He can do nothing of Himself but only what He sees His Father doing, Jesus attempted to soften for the Jews who did not believe in Him or His claims His right to be accepted by them as one sent from God.

JESUS EXPLAINS TO THE PEOPLE THAT GOD HAS SENT HIM TO RESTORE LIFE

But He goes on to explain that God has sent Him to restore life, spiritual life, to men who are dead in their sins. As God the Father has power to give this life to men who are dead, so also has He, the Son, the same power. And because He has this power, He has also from His Father the right and power to judge men. Those who hear Him and believe the Father who has sent Him will rise to life on the last day; but those who do not hear Him and accept Him will rise to judgement.

‘IF YOU WILL NOT ACCEPT MOSES, HOW WILL YOU ACCEPT ME?

Then Jesus tried to show the Jews the justice of His claim to be sent to them by God. Since this mission of Jesus from God is a fact, and indeed a divine fact, it is not susceptible of ordinary means of proof.

Only witnesses can testify to the truth of such a fact. Jesus calls upon the witnesses known to the Jews. John the Baptist, He says, gave testimony to Me and to My mission. If you accept John as a man of God, then you should accept Me to Whom he has given witness. But Jesus was not content to adduce only the testimony of John. There is a greater testimony to Me, the testimony of God Himself.

‘For the works which the Father has given me to accomplish, these very works that I do bear witness to me that the Father has sent me. And the Father himself, who has sent me, has borne witness to me’ (John 5:36-37).

The works to which Jesus refers are the miracles which He has performed. These miracles are the divine seal placed upon His message and His claims. Through the miracles God Himself has testified that Jesus is the Son sent by the Father to establish the Kingdom of God among men. Lastly Jesus refers His hearers to the Scriptures. Moses, He says, has written of Me. If you read Moses rightly you would see that I am what I claim to be. But if you will not accept Moses, how will you accept Me?

JESUS EXPLAINS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE LAW OF MOSES WHICH HE HAS COME TO FULFIL

But the people would not believe Him. Knowing their enmity Jesus, for the time, left Jerusalem and Judea and returned to Galilee. But His enemies pursued Him. Scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem came and reproached Him because His disciples were not keeping the Mosaic Law as they interpreted that Law. The disciples of Jesus, they claimed, were at fault because they did not wash their hands before they ate food.

Jesus made this complaint of the Pharisees and occasion to instruct His disciples and the people. God, He told them, is not so much interested in external observance which may cover an inner impurity and evil; rather He desires an internal goodness and purity of heart. The aim of external observances of the Law of Moses was to preserve internal purity of heart. To interpret the Law (and in this instance there was question of the Pharisaic interpretation of the Law) in such wise as to render it impossible to preserve real purity of heart was to act like a hypocrite. Hence Jesus applied to the Scribes and Pharisees the words of Isaias [Isaiah]:

‘This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; but in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines precepts of men’ (Matthew 15:8-9).

Jesus then summed up His teaching in the words:

‘What goes into the mouth does not defile a man; but that which comes out of the mouth, that defiles a man’ (Matthew 15:11).

The Pharisees took offence at this statement and their attitude alarmed the disciples of Jesus. But He told them that the Pharisees were blind leaders of blind men. Then, at the request of Peter, He explained His meaning to them.

‘Do you not realise that nothing from outside, by entering a man, can defile him? For it does not enter his heart, but his belly, and passes out into the drain. And the things that come out of a man are what defile a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, come evil thoughts, adulteries, immorality, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, shamelessness, jealousy, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and defile a man’ (Mark 7:18-23).

In St Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus adds the words, ‘but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man’ (Matthew 15:20).

EVEN THE PAGANS GAVE GLORY TO THE GOD OF ISRAEL

After this instruction to His disciples He left Galilee and went to the district of Tyre and Sidon. While there He expelled a demon from the daughter of a Syro-Phenician woman. Then He went to the district of Decapolis. There He restored hearing and speech to a deaf-mute. As a result great crowds came to Him, bringing their sick, the blind, the lame, the dumb and the maimed. Jesus cured them and the pagan inhabitants of that district gave glory to the God of Israel. Also, on one occasion, Jesus repeated the miracle of the multiplication of loaves, feeding over four thousand with only seven loaves of bread and a few fishes.

MORE UNWELCOME AND HOSTILE ATTENTION

This renewed activity brought upon Him again the unwelcome and hostile attention of the Pharisees. They came to Him and demanded from Him a sign from heaven. But Jesus, knowing that signs would not really convince them, replied:

‘Why does this generation demand a sign? Amen I say to you, a sign shall not be given to this generation’ (Mark 8:12).

Jesus and His disciples then entered a boat and went to the western side of the Lake of Tiberias. During the journey Jesus cautioned His disciples against the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

When they came to Bethsaida Jesus restored sight to a blind man. But He forbade the man to publish abroad what had happened.

‘WHO DO MEN SAY THE SON OF MAN IS?’ (Mt 16:13)

Some time later, when they had come to the district of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus questioned His disciples, asking them, ‘Who do men say the Son of Man is?’ (Matthew 15:13). The disciples replied that some took Him for John the Baptist, some for Elias, some for Jeremias or one of the prophets. Jesus then asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ (Matthew 16:15).

Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus then said to him:

‘Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to thee, but my Father in heaven. And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever thou shalt lose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’ (Matthew 16:17-19).

TWO FACTS OF GREAT IMPORTANCE

This incident contains two facts of great importance. First of all, in this dialogue with His disciples Jesus acknowledges to them that He is both the Messias, the Christ sent by God, and that He is the natural Son of God, equal to God the Father in divinity. Secondly, acting as the Christ and as the natural Son of God Jesus makes Simon Peter the rock or foundation on which He will build the Church, the Kingdom of God.

When the crowd would have accepted Jesus as a king who would lead them to earthly glory, a political Messias, Jesus refused to play the role and left them. But on this occasion Jesus allows Himself to be called the Christ, the Messias and the Son of God.

Why does Jesus allow to Peter what He had already refused to crowds of His countrymen?

The answer is clear. The crowds had wanted a Messias modelled after their own desires, a Messias who would lead them to world power. But this was not God’s plan, and so it was not the mission of Jesus. The crowds, stubbornly bound to their own desires, deserted Jesus.

But the Apostles and a few disciples, still believing in Jesus, even though they did not completely understand Him, remained faithful to Him. In their sight, and for their benefit, Jesus continued to do His works, to work the miracles which were a sign of the divine power He possessed. And while their wonder and admiration grew Jesus emphasised to them the spiritual nature of His kingdom and contrasted it sharply with the views of the Scribes and Pharisees.

Now Jesus would carry His disciples a bit further; He would initiate them even more into the understanding of His plans for the kingdom.
First, however, it was fitting that they should recognise Him for what He really is. He questions them gently, not asking them at first Who they think He really is, but asking them Who men say that He is. They reply: His countrymen see in Him surely someone remarkable; perhaps Elias, who is to come before the Messias; perhaps Jeremias, who also might be a forerunner of the Messias; perhaps John the Baptist, the recent martyr for God’s law, come again to herald the Messias; or at least a prophet. Then Jesus leads them on. ‘But who do you say that I am?’

Spontaneously Peter speaks. ‘Thou art the Christ,’ he says, ‘the Son of the living God.’ At last it is said openly by those to whom Jesus has come to preach the Kingdom of God. Jesus is the Christ, the Messias. Even more, He is the true, the natural Son of God, equal to the Father in His Godhood. When the crowd would make Him king, Jesus refused. But when Peter declares that He is the Messias and, indeed, the Son of God, Jesus does not deny it. Rather, He confirms it. Flesh and blood, He says, have not revealed this to Peter. Rather it is God Himself Who has revealed this to Peter, and Peter, in faith and love, through this divine enlightenment, accepts Christ Jesus as the Son of God.

GOD REVEALED JESUS’ TRUE IDENTITY TO SIMON PETER

This moment then is a most solemn one. In it the little band of followers which Jesus has drawn to Himself acknowledges Him as the Anointed One of God, even as the true Son of God, God Himself. With this acknowledgement made openly Jesus goes on to reveal to them His plans for the future.

JESUS REVEALS TO SIMON PETER AND THE APOSTLES HIS PLANS FOR THE FUTURE

It is Simon, speaking under divine enlightenment, who has made this declaration of belief in the Messiahship and divine Sonship of Jesus. Speaking to Him in the presence of all Jesus tells him that He will make him the foundation of his kingdom, the Church.

When Simon first met Jesus, Jesus had told him that his name would be changed to Cephas, that is, to Peter (John 1:42). Now Jesus reveals the reason for the change. The name Cephas (or Peter) means rock. Simon is to be the rock on which Jesus will build His kingdom. ‘Thou art Rock (Peter),’ He says, ‘and upon this Rock (on you, Peter) I will build my Church.’ Simon Peter then is to be the foundation rock of the Church of Christ, the strong rock which will give the stability of truth and love to the kingdom. The ‘gates of Hell,’ that is, the kingdom of the devil, will be arrayed against the Church, but the strength of Peter, of the Rock which is Peter, will prevail against the power against the power of the devil.

To make His meaning even clearer Jesus goes on to say that He will give to Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Now the possessor of the keys of a house is the master of the house; he can admit whom he pleases and exclude whom he will. The goods of the house are his to dispose of as he will. The kingdom of heaven is Christ’s own kingdom; He is the master of it. But at some future time, not yet clearly determined, Jesus will make Peter the faithful steward of this kingdom, this household of God; He will give to Peter the keys which control this kingdom. The authority to rule this kingdom will be entrusted by Christ to Peter.

And as if even this were not enough to make clear that Peter was to rule the kingdom for Christ, Jesus adds, ‘whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’ The decisions that Peter shall make, acting as the steward or vicar of Christ, will be ratified in heaven. God Himself, Christ Himself will ratify Peter’s decision, Peter’s rule of the kingdom of heaven on earth.

Jesus refused to accept the title of Messias from the crowds who wished to make Him an earthly king. But He accepted this title from Peter, even the title of ‘Son of God.’

In return for Peter’s faith and love He made (or here He promises to make) Peter His vice regent in the Kingdom of God on earth. Since He would not accept and earthly kingship from the people, it is clear that Jesus accepts Peter’s homage only because Peter and, through him, the disciples are willing to believe in and accept the spiritual kingdom which Jesus has come to establish. This willingness on their part need not at this moment mean that they perceive clearly the essentially spiritual nature of Christ’s kingdom. The subsequent actions of the Apostles seem to show that they had not yet reached that full understanding of the kingdom which they were later to possess. But they had not deserted Jesus when He refused to become an earthly king. They had not left Him when He offered men His own flesh, spiritually received, as the life of the world. Now, in Peter they accepted Him as the Christ, the Son of the living God. They were men of faith and good will. This was enough, for the moment; Christ responded to their faith with a new revelation of the nature of His kingdom.

THE NATURE OF THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST

The kingdom of Christ is in its inner essence spiritual. But it is also to be ‘Church,’ a community of men called to membership in the kingdom. They will enter this kingdom by faith in Christ, by hearing His word and accepting it, especially by accepting Jesus as their life, their spiritual life, the source of their spiritual life. But as a community of men in this world, they will have to contend with the powers of darkness, the kingdom of the devil. To ensure the firmness of their faith, the stability in this community of the God-given truth which Christ brings to them, Jesus establishes (or will establish) Simon Peter as the head of the community of believers in Christ. Thus, though the kingdom is in its inner essence spiritual, it is also in this visible, tangible world a visible and tangible reality. By making Peter the head, the ruler and keybearer of the community of the Kingdom of God, Jesus will make His Church a visible recognisable reality in the world. Those who wish to come to Christ will submit to Peter, the Rock of the Church of Christ, the keybearer of the kingdom. From heaven Christ will ratify the rule, the decisions of Peter, His vice regent on earth. As we shall see later, the actions of the Apostles and of the first Christian community show that this was their understanding of Christ’s words and intention. The Kingdom of God on earth will be a spiritual kingdom, but it will also be a visible kingdom. The spiritual authority of Peter will be the visible rock on which the kingdom will be built.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959 (headings in capital letters added afterwards)

 

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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MEN AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: THE TIMESPAN BETWEEN THE PEOPLE OF GOD BEING PART OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT’S EMPIRE UNTIL WHEN KING HEROD WAS IMPOSED ON THEM BY THE ROMANS

THE PRECEDING POST – WHICH EXPLAINS THE MEANING OF THE RETURN FROM BABYLONIAN EXILE – “THE STORY OF THE REPATRIATION IN THE BIBLE; ANOTHER STORY OF GOD’S GREAT LOVE (FROM 538 B.C. ONWARDS)” WAS POSTED ON THIS BLOG ON OCTOBER 10, 2013.

“After the reforms of Esdras [Ezra] and Nehemias [Nehemiah] the loyalty of the people of Jahweh seemed to have been established. The walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt. The true worship of Jahweh had been reinstituted in the rebuilt Temple at Jerusalem. The people could feel that once again they were the people of God and that God was with them. It is only natural to suppose that this feeling was associated with the hope that the glorious promises of God would be fulfilled, especially the promise that through them God would establish a glorious kingdom on earth and lead the nations of the world to worship at the Temple.

RELATIVE FREEDOM UNDER PERSIAN RULE

But still the nation, the people of God, remained subject to the domination of the Persian rulers. After the efforts of Esdras and Nehemias and until the period of the Macchabees, the history of God’s Chosen People is for the most part shrouded in historical silence. Except for an unsuccessful rebellion under Artaxerxes III Ochus (358-337 B.C.), there is no evidence to show that the people did not remain politically submissive to the Persian rule. The fact that the Persian rulers allowed the free worship of Jahweh may account for this relatively peaceful period.

THE APPEARANCE OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT

In the fourth century before Christ a new factor appeared on the political horizon. Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia, began his reign in the summer of 336 B.C. After consolidating his rule in Greece, Alexander set out in 334 to conquer the empire of Persia. In a series of victories Alexander defeated Darius III, the great king of Persia, and assumed control of the Persian kingdom in 330 B.C. After the death of Alexander in 323 his empire was divided among the more powerful of his generals. Egypt and Palestine fell to the rule of the Ptolemies. Thus the Chosen People came under the domination of the rulers of Egypt.

THE CHOSEN PEOPLE’S JAHWEH WORSHIP UNDER THE PTOLEMIES

The Ptolemies respected the religious views and practices of the Jews and the Jews seem to have been content with their rule. But in the meanwhile a new threat appeared. In the year 200 (or 198) Antiochus III the Great (223-187 B.C..) Defeated Ptolemy IVPhilopator and took over control of Syria and Palestine. Antiochus belonged to the family of the Seleucids, who had gained possession of the Mesopotamian portion of the empire of Alexander. After the reign of Seleucus IV Philopator (187-175 B.C.), Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-163 B.C.), another son of Antiochus the Great, succeeded to the throne.

THE GREEK GODS AND CULTURE ARE FORCED ON GOD’S PEOPLE

Antiochus IV was an ardent Hellenist, that is, he was anxious to spread Greek culture throughout his kingdom. The most stubborn resisters to the process of Hellenisation were the Jews, with their worship of Jahweh. Antiochus was determined to succeed in the Hellenisation of the Jews.

A MORE GREEK-FRIENDLY HIGH PRIEST IS PUT IN PLACE BY ANTIOCHUS IV

About 173 Antiochus IV deposed Onias III, high priest at Jerusalem, and made Jason, a brother of Onias, high priest in his place. Jason had already manifested to Antiochus a willingness to cooperate in the Hellenisation of Jerusalem. His efforts were aided by the Tobiads, an influential family at Jerusalem. The people, however, were not friendly to these plans and Jason did not have the courage to wipe out the worship of Jahweh in the Temple at Jerusalem.

ANTIOCHUS ENTERS THE TEMPLE AND ERECTS THERE A STATUE OF ZEUS

In the year 168 Antiochus entered Jerusalem himself and took from the Temple the golden lampstand, the altar and other furnishings. In 167, at his orders, the ‘Abomination of desolation’ was erected in the Temple. The ‘Abomination’ was probably a statue of Jupiter Olympus. The sacrifices to Jahweh were stopped and a Greek altar was erected and pagan sacrifices were offered there. Altars were also set up throughout the countryside and sacrifices were offered there also. Participation in pagan sacrifices and festivals was made obligatory on all.

THE HASIDEANS, FORERUNNERS OF THE PHARISEES, FORMED TO UPHOLD BELIEFS

Unfortunately many Jews gave up their faith and participated in this pagan worship. Others, however, of a sterner mould left the cities and retired to the country or the desert where it was possible to retain their ancient religious beliefs. These devout followers of Jahweh were known as the Hasideans, that is, the ‘Pious’. They were the forerunners of the later Pharisees.

THE JEWISH FUGITIVE

Among those who remained faithful to the true religion was a certain Mathathias, a priest. He lived at Modin, a village nineteen miles northwest of Jerusalem. When asked to sacrifice to idols he killed the royal official who made the demand and fled to the desert with his five sons.

THE SUBSEQUENT JEWISH UPRISING

This courageous act proved to be the beginning of a successful rebellion against the Seleucid dynasty. Faithful followers of Jahweh rallied to the cause of Mathathias and his sons. On the death of Mathathias the military leadership of the movement passed to Judas, his third son. Judas, called Macchabaeus, in 164 reached an agreement with Lysias and Antiochus V Eupator by virtue of which the Temple was restored to the faithful Jahwists.

THE INSTITUTION OF THE JEWISH FESTIVAL HANUKKAH

Exactly three years after its profanation by Antiochus IV the Temple was rededicated to Jahweh. Judas ordered that a yearly festival should be celebrated to commemorate the victory of Jahwism. This festival is known as the Hanukkah, or Festival of Lights.

THE HIGH PRIEST HENCEFORTH IS GIVEN CIVIL AS WELL AS PRIESTLY AUTHORITY

This victory of Judas Macchabaeus was neither complete nor permanent. At Jerusalem itself there remained a strong faction favourable to Hellenism. The Greek monarchs at Antioch still desired absolute rule over the Jews. The struggle therefore continued. In 160 Judas himself was killed. His youngest brother Jonathan assumed military leadership of the Jahwist party.

The intrigues and wars between the various claimants to the throne at Antioch aided the Macchabees to achieve their aims. Jonathan was made high priest in 152 by Alexander Balas, one of the claimants to the Seleucid throne. In 142 Simon Macchabaeus became military leader and high priest. In 140 the people themselves regularised the high priesthood of Simon and the civil and priestly authority were united in one person.

CIVIL WAR AMONG THE JEWS

Under John Hyrcanus, the son of Simon, the territory subject to the Macchabaean family was enlarged until it approximated the kingdom of David. But the Jahwistic spirit which had animated the efforts of the original Macchabaean brothers weakened when a stable dynasty was established. Matters came to a head during the reign of Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 B.C.).

Alexander was the first of the descendants of the Macchabees to call himself ‘king’. He spent most of his reign in a series of military campaigns designed to extend his kingdom. He found himself in strong opposition to the Pharisees, the descendants of the Hasideans. The Pharisees objected to the exercise of the high priesthood by a man whose hands were continually stained with the blood of war. This opposition led to civil war.

PEACE WITH THE PHARISEES

In the course of the war both Alexander and the party of the Pharisees appealed to foreign intervention. This represented a complete about-face from the ideals for which the original Macchabees had fought. Before his death Alexander saw the necessity of coming to terms with the Pharisees, who represented the wishes of the majority of the people. At his request Alexandra, his wife, who succeeded to the throne, made peace with the Pharisees.

THE ROMAN SENATE AND THE TRIUMVIRS ESTABLISH HEROD AS KING IN 37 B.C.

During her lifetime she made her son Hyrcanus high priest. But after her death her other son, Aristobolus, seized both the kingship and the high priesthood from Hyrcanus. The cause of Hyrcanus was supported by Antipater, an Idumaean general of Alexander Jannaeus.

The remaining history of the Macchabaen dynasty unfolded under the evil star of Antipater and his son Herod.

THE EVIL STAR OF ANTIPATER AND HEROD

Both of the latter were astute politicians and they gained the support of the new power in the East, the power of the expanding Roman state. The struggle for power in the Promised Land ended in 37 B.C. when the Roman Senate and the Triumvirs established Herod the Great as king.

THE CHOSEN PEOPLE NOW LIVE UNDER ROMAN RULE

Thus the splendid achievements of the first Macchabees ended in the imposition of an Idumaean king over the Chosen People by Rome, a foreign power. And thus, it would seem, the dream of the people was not yet to be fulfilled. The kingdom of God on earth was not yet established at Jerusalem. When would the hopes of the nation come to pass?” (To be continued)
– By Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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TODAY’S BIBLE READING (ACTS 15:7-21)

I RULE THAT WE DO NOT MAKE THINGS MORE DIFFICULT FOR PAGANS WHO TURN TO GOD.

After the discussion had gone on a long time, Peter stood up and addressed the apostles and elders.

“My brothers,” he said, “you know perfectly well that in the early days God made his choice among you: the pagans were to learn the Good News from me and so become believers. In fact God, who can read everyone’s heart, showed his approval of them by giving the Holy Spirit to them just as he had to us. God made no distinction between them and us, since he purified their hearts by faith. It would only provoke God’s anger now, surely, if you imposed on the disciples the very burden that neither we nor our ancestors were strong enough to support? Remember, we believe that we are saved in the same way as they are: through the grace of the Lord Jesus.”

This silenced the entire assembly, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul describing all the signs and wonders God had worked through them among the pagans.

When they had finished it was James who spoke. “My brothers,” he said, “listen to me. Simeon has described how God first arranged to enlist a people for his name out of the pagans. This is entirely in harmony with the words of the prophets, since the scriptures say:

After that I shall return
and rebuild the fallen House of David;
I shall rebuild it from its ruins
and restore it.
Then the rest of mankind,
all the pagans who are consecrated to my name,
will look for the Lord,
says the Lord who made this known so long ago.

“I rule, then, that instead of making things more difficult for pagans who turn to God, we send them a letter telling them merely to abstain from anything polluted by idols, from fornication, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has always had his preachers in every town, and is read aloud in the synagogues every sabbath.”

V. The word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

 

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TODAY’S BIBLE READING (ACTS 13:44-52)

WE MUST TURN TO THE PAGANS

The next sabbath almost the whole town assembled to hear the word of God. When they saw the crowds, the Jews, prompted by jealousy, used blasphemies and contradicted everything Paul said. Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly. “We had to proclaim the word of God to you first, but since you have rejected it, since you do not think yourselves worthy of eternal life, we must turn to the pagans. For this is what the Lord commanded us to do when he said:

“I have made you a light for the nations, so that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth.”

It made the pagans very happy to hear this and they thanked the Lord for his message; all who were destined for eternal life became believers. Thus the word of the Lord spread through the whole countryside.

But the Jews worked upon some of the devout women of the upper classes and the leading men of the city and persuaded them to turn against Paul and Barnabas and expel them from their territory. So they shook the dust from their feet in defiance and went off to Iconium; but the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

V. The word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

 

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TODAY’S GOSPEL READING (JOHN 10:22-30)

THE FATHER AND I ARE ONE.

It was the time when the feast of Dedication was being celebrated in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the Temple walking up and down in the Portico of Solomon. The Jews gathered round him and said, “How much longer are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ,
tell us plainly.” Jesus replied:

“I have told you, but you do not believe.
The works I do in my Father’s name are my witness;
but you do not believe,
because you are no sheep of mine.
The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice;
I know them and they follow me.
I give them eternal life;
they will never be lost
and no one will ever steal them from me.
The Father who gave them to me is greater than anyone,
and no one can steal from the Father.
The Father and I are one.”

V. The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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