What goes around, comes around.

November 19, 1999 1 Macabees 4, 36-37, 52-59 + Luke 19, 45-48

November 20, 1999 1 Macabees 6, 1-13 + Luke 20, 27-40

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On these days we read of two different "liberations" of the sacred Temple in Jerusalem. This first, in 164-163 BC, from the tyranny of the Greek successor kingdom under Antiochus Epiphanes, and 2nd during the lifetime of Jesus, from the moneychangers, which is to say, the bankers.

We also read of the consequences of wickedness in high places. Antiochus dies -- not at home, among his kindred -- but in a foreign land, in Persia, after hearing of the defeat of his armies in the field. Sow not in furrows of injustice, Sirach the wise writes in his book, too bad Antiochus didn't read it.

The Jews found the Temple in terrible disrepair, and a pagan idol set up before the altar of holocausts. They cleansed it, repaired it, rebuilt the altar of holocausts, and began again the Temple liturgies. This event is the historical root of the Jewish festival of Chanukah, celebrated for 8 days.

Jesus today strikes at the corruption of the religious establishment of his era, and he hits them where it really hurts -- in the wallet. This action unites the entire religious establishment against him, but since Jesus was still attracting large crowds, his enemies were powerless to move against him. "They feared the people," as do all corrupt and oppressive leadership. In our own era, we hear counsels such as "Don't tell the people that, they wouldn't understand, they would panic." When the wicked rule, they forget that the purpose of governance is the greater good, and the greater good is not served by keeping people ignorant and excluding them from participation in the decisions that affect them. An index of the amount of virtue in a government may be found in its transparency. If the government is afraid of the people, and actively seeks to conceal the truth about its activities from the people, then we can be certain that the government is up to no good.

Jesus also teaches us of the eternal nature of our existence. The Sadducees were educated and sophisticated, they doubted the resurrection of the dead, and use a trick question to see if they could trap Jesus with a web of words. They didn't do very well, however, and withdrew to plot for another day.

This week President Clinton visited Turkey and Greece, and there were riots in the streets in response. The protestors in Greece were prevented from approaching the U.S. Embassy, so they looted and torched a "fashionable" business district. Meanwhile, the State Department advised all Americans living in Russia to leave before the end of the year, and announced the evacuation of the dependents of US diplomats resident in Russia. The nation's largest pipeline companies announced they would be shutting down their pipeline systems over the upcoming "century date change."

The special facility established by the Federal Reserve system to help banks keep their liquidity in the face of excessive withdrawal demands has begun dispensing cash, inventories of gasoline and heating oil declined at much faster than normal rates in October, the price of crude oil is at a nine-year high, and the federal government confirmed that the nation's food processing system has at most a 60 day supply of food. Meanwhile, President Clinton is advising the nation, "Everything will be fine." I guess the accuracy of that statement may depend on the definition o "everything" and "fine", not to mention, "will be."

What does this have to do with justice and peace? It has to do with reading the signs of the times, discerning the context, and knowing how to respond to the Gospel imperatives of love, justice, and charity. One theme in today's readings is the familiar "the unjust will reap the consequences of their actions." I'm wondering if this theme is being illustrated in the on-going progress of world events. What goes around really does come around.

Antiochus Epiphanes was the proud and arrogant inheritor of the legacy of Alexander the Great, but he himself was certainly no Alexander. He attempted to impose a uniform, homogenous, European Greek culture on all of his territories. He persecuted those who worshiped the Lord and followed the ancestral customs, he also defiled the Temple. He murdered the innocent and oppressed the poor. He had everything, but he ended up with nothing. Those who do not learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them,

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