Resistence to Tyranny is Justice!

#49 November 12: Wisdom 13, 1-9 + Luke 17, 26-37

#48 November 13: Wisdom 18, 14-16 + Luke 18, 1-8 -- St. Francis Cabrini

#47 November 14: Proverbs 31, 10-13, 19-20, 30-31 + 1 Thessalonians 5, 1-6 + Matthew 25, 14-30

#46 November 15: 1 Maccabees 1, 10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-64 + Luke 18, 35-43

#45 November 16: 2 Maccabees 6, 18-31 + Luke 19, 1-10

#44 November 17: 2 Maccabees 7, 1, 20-31 + Luke 19, 11-28

#43 November 18: 1 Maccabees 2, 15-29 + Luke 19, 41-44, St. Rose Duchesne

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In the 2nd century BC, a great persecution was carried out against Israel. The land had been under the authority of the Persian Empire, but after its conquest by Alexander the Great, it fell under Greek control. Upon Alexander's death, his empire was divided among generals and nobles, and thus it came to pass that eventually, Antiochus Epiphanes, a descendent of one of those who received a kingdom from Alexander's inheritance. The Persians ruled a polyglot empire, and were content to protect each people in their ancestral customs. Not so the Greeks. This week the first readings give us stories of heroic resistence to tyranny.

All were ordered by the king to abandon their ancestral customs and embrace the customs, religion, and lifestyle of the Greeks. Those who resisted were tortured and killed. We hear the story of Eleazar, 90 years old, learned in the Law. His friends take him aside and say, "Eleazar, this is the way things are now. Just have a little taste of this pork roast and be done with it. Everybody will understand." But Eleazar refuses the call to homogenization and disloyalty and embraces a martyrs death rather than betray his people. He tells his friends that he has an obligation to live the Law as an example for those who are young.

We hear of a brave mother and her seven sons, six are murdered by the tyrants, and the king orders the woman to persuade her son to apostasy and idolatry. But she preaches a sermon of devotion to Yahweh and faithfulness to the Law.

And we hear of Matthias and his sons, who with their families and friends flee into the desert, abandoning their homes and villages, in order to be faithful to their ancestral laws and customs.

Empires don't tolerate much in the way of diversity. Consider the WTO trade talks going on even as these words are being written in Seattle. Transnational corporations and the wealthy West are determined to beat down the last vestiges of resistance to their world wide dominion. Custom, tradition, religion, human rights, none of these mean anything to these Lords of Trade. The God of Creation and Redemption has no place in the hearts of these cold and cruel tyrants. All must bow down and worship the Almighty Dollar and abandon their ancestral cultures for the latest glitz and glamour from Hollywood. They rejoice in their ability to oppress the poor, to beat their workers if productivity falls and to pay them pennies with no social benefits. When they are done with them, when they have extracted the last bit of productivity from them, these Lords of Capital abandon their workers to the mercies of fate and the marketplace.

On November 16th was the 10th anniversary of the murder of the six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador. They are members of a distinguished company of faithful martyrs of the 20th century, victims of greed and tyranny. We who are citizens of the United States must remember that our government encouraged this kind of tyranny, supported it, paid for it, trained its perpetrators in terror tactics. One of the places where such training goes on is the School of the Americas, and this coming weekend will be the annual vigil at its gates --- a group of "persistent widows" will gather and remember all those murdered by graduates of that school, people who are forgotten and ignored by the U.S. Military which maintains -- to this day -- that "it's not our fault."

The gospels for this week from Matthew and Luke remind us (twice!) of the importance of prudence in regard to our temporal goods, and present warnings to be ready for the coming of the "Day of the Lord." We read of the healing of a blind beggar, of the conversion of a rich tax collector, and of the persistence of a widow who had suffered injustice.

Jesus was passing by Jericho, and a blind beggar asked those around him what the tumult was. They told him that Jesus was coming, so the beggar began to plead for Jesus to have mercy on him. Those standing around him told him to shut up, but he was persistent. His faith brought him sight.

Zaccheus, a tax collector -- who worked for the Romans, and thus was part of the oppressive colonialist regime -- comes to a true and genuine conversion in these readings. What is his response to the Gospel? He gives half of all of his possessions to the poor, and promises to pay back "four times" the money he has extorted from the people. Would that the Lords of Trade and Tyranny would come to such a conversion of heart and ways of living! But they are making too much money stealing rice from the food bowls of the poorest of the poor to be very interested in conversion. They would rather shift the tax burden from the rich onto the poor than share their wealth with those who are poor because of the extortion of the rich.

Let us remember to pray for the rich, that this terrible burden of greed, envy, gluttony, pride, wrath, arrogance, and violence be lifted from their shoulders, so that they may come to understand the joy and abundance that is found in true conversion to the Gospel.

And let us also remember to pray for the poor, and all who stand against the tyrannies of these times, that the spirit of Eleazar, Mattias and his sons, and the seven brothers and their mother will sustain them in their resistence to those who would oppress and subjugate them. Let us in particular remember the people of Chechnya, who are enduring the bombs and missiles of the criminal Russian regime. Martyrs of El Salvador, hear our prayer!

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