1 Maccabees 1:10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-63
From them came forth a sinful root, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of King Antiochus; he had been a hostage in Rome. He began to reign in the one hundred thirty-seventh year of the kingdom of the Greeks.
In those days certain renegades came out from Israel and misled many, saying, “Let us go and make a covenant with the Gentiles around us, for since we separated from them many disasters have come upon us.” This proposal pleased them, and some of the people eagerly went to the king, who authorized them to observe the ordinances of the Gentiles. So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, according to Gentile custom, and removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant. They joined with the Gentiles and sold themselves to do evil.
Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and that all should give up their particular customs. All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath.
Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the one hundred forty-fifth year, they erected a desolating sacrilege on the altar of burnt offering. They also built altars in the surrounding towns of Judah, and offered incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets. The books of the law that they found they tore to pieces and burned with fire. Anyone found possessing the book of the covenant, or anyone who adhered to the law, was condemned to death by decree of the king.
But many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food. They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die.
Psalm 119:53, 61, 134, 150, 155, 158
Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked,
those who forsake your law.
Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me,
I do not forget your law.
Redeem me from human oppression,
that I may keep your precepts.
Those who persecute me with evil purpose draw near;
they are far from your law.
Salvation is far from the wicked,
for they do not seek your statutes.
I look at the faithless with disgust,
because they do not keep your commands.
As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” Then he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God.
“Let us go and make a covenant with the Gentiles around us, for since we separated from them many disasters have come upon us.” This thinking caused the Israelites to follow idols and forsake the covenant. Rather than have faith in God to endure the disasters that came upon them, they turned away and even began to persecute the ones who were faithful to the holy covenant.
In the Gospel we read the story of the blind beggar who had suffered his own personal disaster, yet he did not lose faith. He called out loudly to Jesus for mercy. Even though people tried to discourage him, he kept up his resolve to persevere and receive his miracle.
The faithful who obey the law and serve the Lord find that they still suffer in this life. We are not spared from trials and sometimes even disastrous situations. But through the troubles, the Lord teaches us to keep our eyes and ears on Him. Through our sufferings, we learn detachment from the world and from human respect. We die to carnality and we develop perseverance. Suffering and weakness reminds us that this world is fallen. It is not our final home. Our true happiness is with God in heaven and through patience, we witness something beyond our own strength. We become mature in the Spirit to merit a reward in heaven that can never be taken away.
Knowing that there are many martyrs today who choose to die for the faith we profess, we can offer up our prayers and sacrifices for them who are suffering. May the faith grow by their courageous witness as a voice crying out to God, the source of mercy and grace.