Today’s reading from the First Book of Maccabees details the end of Antiochus Epiphanes. Throughout this week, we have heard selections from both the First and the Second Book of Maccabees. One would think that the second follows the first, but in fact both of these books chronicle the same period of time, each from a different perspective. While the First, from which we read today, is a political chronicle or history, the Second is a far more spiritual testament.
The fact that the political perspective is included in our canon attests to the fact that politics is a necessary reality in our world. However, it asks us to approach political maneuvering while staying within the boundaries of God’s Law. This clearly is not what Antiochus did. Consequently his plans failed, his kingdom was crushed, and the Maccabees succeeded in overthrowing the tyrant. Unfortunately, history tells us that eventually even the Maccabees became a corrupt political party within Israel. Because of their corruption, God seems to have allowed the Roman Empire to defeat them. This is the reality into which Jesus was born.
As we listen to the story of the last days of Antiochus, we might be well advised to pay heed to his plight. God must come first, earthly kings and kingdoms second. This must be true in all lives, particularly in those who fill leadership roles.
Our allegiance to Jesus and his kingdom must be absolute. For those of us here who have chosen to follow Jesus in the footsteps of St. Francis, we have a powerful example of a man who was headed in the wrong direction and made a course correction. Francis, like many of his time, was looking for glory as a knight. He became, instead, the Herald of the true King, Our Lord Jesus Christ, who laid down his life for us and whose memory we keep in each Eucharist.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator