The First and Second Books of Maccabees are the last books of the Old Testament and detail the resistance of the Jews to the Seleucid Empire under Antiochus IV. I was completely unfamiliar with them until I began preparing to be received into the Catholic Church because they weren’t in my Anglican Church Bible as most Protestants deny their canonicity. Both cover a lot and probably the most famous is the resistance of Judas Maccabeus to the Hellene invaders.
What is more relevant to our times is the martyrdom of Eleazar which I will get to soon.
The times we are living through now are certainly not as openly violent as what takes place in these books — at least not up until now. But we do live in precarious and uncertain times. In many nations around the world, people are being asked to choose between receiving a “vaccination” (hereafter the NotVaxx) and losing their livelihoods. Even those whose jobs are safe are being told they will not be able to fly, go to concerts, sporting events or other things that until recently were available to anyone. Telling people at any time before around March 2020 that they would one day be denied these things for their “health” would have been laughable. I haven’t yet been put in this position but I’m preparing for the worst in ways big and small.
We are told the NotVaxx is “safe and effective” repeatedly and even if you avoid the news, these messages are repeated everywhere. People who don’t want it are described as either “antivaxxers” or “vaccine hesitant”. In the years before this there has been a concerted campaign to discredit people who have even minor objections to them as being fringe lunatics. As we’ve heard recently from what was once the great Australian state of Victoria, these mandates won’t apply to anyone wielding power. A few can see the sinister nature of this clearly but most can’t despite the incoherence and hypocrisy of the elitists pushing it. Those believing this sinister narrative include many committed Christians.
I have already had a number of family members question me on this or agree with me while insisting I put my family first or use some other spurious reasoning that allows me to justify the coward’s way out. One such is the suggestion that I take one that does not have the taint of the murder of the unborn in its development. Others claim (even more spuriously), that this taint can be lessened by time, intention or in some other degree such as a state of emergency.
The taint above is certainly one reason to reject taking the NotVaxx but it is far from the only one. Even if I were able to take a saline solution that I knew to be harmless in order to get my freedoms back I would feel I had betrayed the Truth in doing so. I already feel wrong to the extent that I have participated in the lie in many small ways. This brings us to Eleazar.
Before the account of Eleazar’s martyrdom in 2 Maccabees 6 there is a useful message that rings true in these times:
14 For in the case of the other nations the Lord waits patiently to punish them until they have reached the full measure of their sins; but he does not deal in this way with us, 15 in order that he may not take vengeance on us afterward when our sins have reached their height. 16 Therefore he never withdraws his mercy from us. Although he disciplines us with calamities, he does not forsake his own people. 17 Let what we have said serve as a reminder; we must go on briefly with the story.
Many Christians today have entirely forgotten how important suffering is to our religion. Most Christians don’t even observe the most basic fasts or periods of abstinence though we are explicitly commanded to almost as much as we are told to pray. Being a Christian, doesn’t and has never meant an easy life on earth. It has often meant the very opposite.
18 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. 19 But he, welcoming death with honor rather than life with pollution, went up to the rack of his own accord, spitting out the flesh, 20 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.
All Eleazar had to do was publicly eat pork which was forbidden under the law. How many Christians today would deny Christ to keep some comforts? I can imagine just such a scenario where one says to a Catholic that they can simply go to confession afterwards and that all will be forgiven. As it was for the Japanese peasants told to step on the fumi-e (image of Christ) to save themselves and their families if they could live with such a betrayal. Eat the pig and be free.
In the next passage it gets even more sinister.
21 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, 22 so that by doing this he might be saved from death, and be treated kindly on account of his old friendship with them. 23 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.
24 “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, 25 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.26 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. 27 Therefore, by bravely giving up my life now, I will show myself worthy of my old age 28 and leave to the young a noble example of how to die a good death willingly and nobly for the revered and holy laws.”
Here we see the dangers of participating in the lie even a little. Even if he was spared, what example would he have been to the next generation who looked to him for guidance? The scandal he would caused would have been all the more sinful because of the lie behind it. He would have sent countless young into despair or apostasy and his Pharisaical act would not have saved him but worsened the righteous wrath of God at his judgement.
When he had said this, he went at once to the rack. 29 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.30 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.”
31 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.
Eleazar died like a man. He took up his cross and suffered for the Lord.
Because Eleazar and the family that follows him into martyrdom didn’t submit, we don’t know whether it would have ended with him having to taste forbidden flesh. We know today that it absolutely wouldn’t have ended with eating the pig. That the first act of apostacy would be one of many and that once begun, it would be easier and easier to submit and harder and harder to resist. Once the will is broken, it is much harder to mend.
We know this today because conspiracy theories quickly become reality and are thus predictive models for what is next. We only had to go into lockdown to relieve hospitals for two weeks or maybe a month and then another lockdown and then another. Victoria is on its sixth! We had to wear masks to keep us healthy. We need to take the NotVaxx to keep us healthy. We need to take a second dose. We need a third booster and we’re still wearing masks. We’ll need a forth. We need a health passport. Last year, nobody would have believed it if you said it would come to this. For Eleazar, it began and ended with a single piece of forbidden meat.
One might quibble because this isn’t about religion — but it is. As a result of all of this, people have been repeatedly denied public worship, access to the sacraments and when allowed, they have been under insulting and ridiculous conditions. The bishops and church leaders have mostly shamefully and even gleefully gone along with all of this. We are having basic dignities and rights taken away that have never except under the most ruthless regimes been taken before. This is certainly religious and it must be resisted no matter what comforts are taken from us.