“A Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer sacrifice upon the altar in Modein, according to the king’s command. When Mattathias saw it, be burned with zeal and his heart was stirred. He gave vent to righteous anger; he ran and killed him upon the altar.’” (1 Maccabees 2:23-24)
Anger in itself is not sinful when properly channelled. For instance, in John 2:13-15 we read: “Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple, he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.”
Sometimes, there is just no need to be diplomatic about certain issues. We need to be angry enough at the devil to avoid negotiating with him. In today’s first reading, officers from the evil king Antiochus Ephiphanes arrived at the city of Modein to enforce apostasy against the Jewish religion. Mattathias initially tried to be diplomatic, he spoke to them calmly but then, a Jew came forward to offer the sacrifice.
Mattathias fumed with holy anger; he burned with zeal (the same word used in John 2:17 with reference to Jesus for cleansing the Temple). He ran and killed the Jew instantly. He also killed the king’s officers and tore down the pagan altar. The death of this Jew fulfills what Jesus would say: “if you try to save your life, you will lose it but if you lose your life for the sake of God, you will keep it for eternity.”
Two lessons we learn from this encounter. In a moment of temptation, don’t negotiate with the devil; act immediately. Secondly, be prepared. No one engages in a battle with bare hands. Like Mattathias who gathered an army in preparation for King Antiochus, we must prepare our spiritual arsenal through daily prayers and meditation and the practice of holiness.
In today’s Gospel passage Jesus wept over Jerusalem. This cry of Jesus would materialize in the year AD 70 when the city would be brought down and not one stone in the Temple would be left standing. As Jesus wept over the temple, we should learn to weep over our sins because they only merit us hell.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, fill me with zeal for truth, righteousness, and holiness. Amen.
Bible Study: 1 Maccabees 2:15-29, Ps. 50:1-2,5-6,14-15, Luke 19:41-44).