Today is Tuesday the 22nd of June, the Feast of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More.
The Lord is my light, my hope, my salvation. In him I trust. As I enter into prayer now, can I place all my trust in God, my light, my hope, my salvation?
Today’s reading is from the Second Book of Maccabees.
2 Maccabees 6:18,21,24-31
Eleazar, one of the foremost teachers of the Law, a man already advanced in years and of most noble appearance, was being forced to open his mouth wide to swallow pig's flesh. Those in charge of the impious banquet, because of their long-standing friendship with him, took him aside and privately urged him to have meat brought of a kind he could properly use, prepared by himself, and only pretend to eat the portions of sacrificial meat as prescribed by the king; 'Such pretence' he said 'does not square with our time of life; many young people would suppose that Eleazar at the age of ninety had conformed to the foreigners' way of life, and because I had played this part for the sake of a paltry brief spell of life might themselves be led astray on my account; I should only bring defilement and disgrace on my old age. Even though for the moment I avoid execution by man, I can never, living or dead, elude the grasp of the Almighty. Therefore if I am man enough to quit this life here and now I shall prove myself worthy of my old age, and I shall have left the young a noble example of how to make a good death, eagerly and generously, for the venerable and holy laws.' With these words he went straight to the block. His escorts, so recently well disposed towards him, turned against him after this declaration, which they regarded as sheer madness. Just before he died under the blows, he groaned aloud and said, 'The Lord whose knowledge is holy sees clearly that, though I might have escaped death, whatever agonies of body I now endure under this bludgeoning, in my soul I am glad to suffer, because of the awe which he inspires in me'. This was how he died, leaving his death as an example of nobility and a record of virtue not only for the young but for the great majority of the nation.
Not a story for the squeamish, this one! Did you notice how you felt as you heard it? How did it seem to you? – a bit too gruesome, or noble and inspiring?
What are the principles that you feel passionate about? – that you would go to the stake for? Can you think of any times recently when your principles have been tested, when you’ve been put under pressure to do something you thought was wrong? How did you handle it?
As the conclusion of this story is read again, notice these final words of Eleazar. Notice how he describes the God in whom he is placing his trust, and his relationship with God.
Talk to God now about the ways he inspires awe in you. Perhaps you can immediately think of some ways, perhaps you need to reflect a bit, or you might want to ask God to help you feel more inspired, for that gift of awe and wonder in his presence.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.