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 do 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.
Psalm 3: 2-7
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.
Luke 19: 1-10
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.”
A group of young children in a religious education class were once discussing the prayers that they say at home. The teacher asked if they pray before meals, and one child said, “I do except at school, because no one else says prayers -- or sometimes I say prayers in my heart but I don’t make the Sign of the Cross.” This prompted a conversation about what was the better thing to do: say prayers silently in the cafeteria without making the Sign of the Cross or showing their faith publicly. Ultimately, the children decided that being a saint wasn’t just about doing what they are supposed to do, but showing the world that they love God and that this love matters more than fitting in or escaping questions from their classmates. In fact, the class concluded that if they do get questions, that is an opportunity to share their faith with others.
Seeking the Lord publicly might not always be comfortable. Few of us will be asked to physically lay our lives down like Eleazar, but as long as we are living in the world, we will face situations where practicing our faith or speaking the truth might make us unpopular. We face being misunderstood, judged, or excluded. Even in the Gospel, the crowds grumbled against Zacchaeus and even against Jesus for receiving a tax collector. But to Jesus, the judgment was worth it to reach Zacchaeus. To Eleazar, it was worth it to witness to others who would also be called to withstand persecution for their faith.
Think about your daily life and the ways you may feel pressured to keep your faith under wraps. Ask the Lord how He might be calling you to step out and witness in ways that will bring you out of your comfort zone but will glorify Him and give hope to others. Trust that, even if you face opposition, the Lord is your shield, and He will give you what you need.