Beloved in Christ, once again, our reflection is not quite on the Tanach, but in this case the First Book of Maccabees. For those of you who celebrate Hanukkah, we find the incident in I Maccabees.
Roughly, the First Book of Maccabees talks about the war between Antiochus Epiphanes and the Jewish people lead by Judas Maccabeus and later his sons. The miracle here is not so much in oil for one day lasting for seven (or the miraculaous fire in II Maccabees), but in that the Jews conquered the Greek Empire, no small accomplishment. I Maccabees tells in graphic detail how some Jews refused to submit to the Greeks who were trying to force them to eat pork and to leave the children uncircumcised, and in general to abandon the Jewish religion. It is a story of great courage, but it is also a story of how God stands with his people.
One of the great inspirations for Judas Maccabee and his sons were the stories they read from the scriptures, how David defeated Goliath, how Jonathan and his armor bearer conquered a troop of Phillistines and many more. Friends are you down. Do you have ten thousand soldiers agains your group of four hundred. We need to know, God has won the war. We still have the battle, but God is with us, he has conquered the enemy. Our part is to learn to walk with him, and to obey him. To obey and walk with him is victory. When David went against Goliath, he didn't see a giant, he saw a man that the Lord God had already defeated.
We have a real problem in the church today. Most Christians are leading defeated lives. Those few who are living victorious lives, most often are suffering, but putting God first. They know they have the victory. Go look at the icons. Are there any fat Christians among them? These guys knew how to deny themselves for the Lord. Fasting and praying were regular parts of their disciplines (we find this with Judas Maccabeus as well). They were willing to give up things for the common good.
Is it not time we learned from our Christian and Jewish forbears? ARe we willing to give up THINGS and MONEY for God. The church is too much a captive of society today. The Bishop of Rome has stated that greed is the main force behind our economic meltdown, and I agree with him. But has any politician said, "We need to live a simpler lifestyle"? Has any politician in the last 36 years said, "It is an act of patriotism for us to learn to live with less gasoline"? No, they are encouraging people to spend and buy, as if either of those items can really help.
Real joy comes from truly knowing Jesus as Lord and Saviour, and by walking truly with him.
I know, my secular work seems to be drying up (surprise three week unpaid vacation for Christmas), but I also know the Lord will provide, if I am with Him.
Shalom to all,
Mar Michael Abportus, OSL