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 memory. 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 for 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 that 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.
The king fell into a rage, and handled him worse than the others, being exasperated at his scorn. So he died in his integrity, putting his whole trust in the Lord.
Last of all, the mother died, after her sons.
Let this be enough, then, about the eating of sacrifices and the extreme tortures.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
The mother in today’s reading is “especially admirable” because she bore unjust pain with courageous hope. Who in your life maintains strong faith in the face of darkness, like this mother? Perhaps your own mother comes to mind, and certainly Mary at the foot of Jesus’ cross.
In my parish, countless mothers living immigration crises display this resilient faith. Amidst the pain of detention, deportation and family separation, they don’t turn on God. Rather they praise God for the gifts of life, family and faith. They urge their children to do the same, and to focus on school, extracurriculars and prayer, so as to not be overcome by bitterness and desperation. They instill hope in the community by organizing marches and rosaries for justice and healing.
From Scriptures to our daily lives, we are blessed with witnesses of courageous hope in the Lord. How do these examples urge you to live your faith boldly and to face darkness with courageous hope?
—Amy Ketner is the Coordinator of Hispanic/Latino Ministry at St. Mary Student Parish in Ann Arbor, MI.
Have the courage to lose control.
Have the courage to feel useless.
Have the courage to listen.
Have the courage to receive.
Have the courage to let your heart be broken.
Have the courage to feel.
Have the courage to fall in love.
Have the courage to get ruined for life.
Have the courage to make a friend.
—Dean Brackley, SJPlease share the Good Word with your friends!