2 Maccabees 6:18-31
Eleazar, one of the scribes in high position, a man now advanced in age and of noble presence, was being forced to open his mouth to eat swine’s flesh. But he, welcoming death with honor rather than life with pollution, went up to the rack of his own accord, spitting out the flesh, as all ought to go who have the courage to refuse things that it is not right to taste, even for the natural love of life.
Those who were in charge of that unlawful sacrifice took the man aside because of their long acquaintance with him, and privately urged him to bring meat of his own providing, proper for him to use, and to pretend that he was eating the flesh of the sacrificial meal that had been commanded by the king, so that by doing this he might be saved from death, and be treated kindly on account of his old friendship with them. But making a high resolve, worthy of his years and the dignity of his old age and the gray hairs that he had reached with distinction and his excellent life even from childhood, and moreover according to the holy God-given law, he declared himself quickly, telling them to send him to Hades.
“Such pretense is not worthy of our time of life,” he said, “for many of the young might suppose that Eleazar in his ninetieth year had gone over to an alien religion, and through my pretense, for the sake of living a brief moment longer, they would be led astray because of me, while I defile and disgrace my old age. Even if for the present I would avoid the punishment of mortals, yet whether I live or die I will not escape the hands of the Almighty. Therefore, by bravely giving up my life now, I will show myself worthy of my old age and leave to the young a noble example of how to die a good death willingly and nobly for the revered and holy laws.”
When he had said this, he went at once to the rack. Those who a little before had acted toward him with goodwill now changed to ill will, because the words he had uttered were in their opinion sheer madness. When he was about to die under the blows, he groaned aloud and said: “It is clear to the Lord in his holy knowledge that, though I might have been saved from death, I am enduring terrible sufferings in my body under this beating, but in my soul I am glad to suffer these things because I fear him.”
So in this way he died, leaving in his death an example of nobility and a memorial of courage, not only to the young but to the great body of his nation.
O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
many are saying to me,
“There is no help for you in God.”
But you, O Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, and the one who lifts up my head.
I cry aloud to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy hill.
I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, for the Lord sustains me.
I am not afraid of ten thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.
He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”
The story of Eleazer in the book of Maccabees inspires us still for his love of the youth. No matter how brutal the threat and the violence imposed upon him, he refused to abandon his faith and his desire to please God. His oppressors tried to offer him a false repentance: a pretence of obeying their command for the sake of saving his life. His entire life had been devoted to obeying the law of his faith and he would not only stand by it to the end, he refused to cause a scandal to any young people who might be lead astray if he tried to save his life.
In the Gospel, Jesus saves Zacchaeus, a tax collector in need to repentance. He accepts the invitation that Jesus gives him to share a meal and this acceptance changes his heart and restores his life.
The contrasts in the two stories are profound. The world cannot offer new life, but if we suffer while serving the Lord, we will save our lives. Jesus offers us life, and if we have failed him and restoration needs to be made, He gives us the chance to make it.
God’s plan is always the way of life and no matter what we have to suffer, trusting in Him will lead us to salvation. It will also give a shining example to others.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank you for the elders who have gone before me as a shining light in our world of faithful perseverance to You. May I also serve You and be an example to the youth and children in my life as well so that I may never lead anyone astray but encourage them to follow You. Amen.