November 15. Vincent presented the context for the readings of this week from 1 and 2 Maccabees.  These books tell of a traumatic time of wars and oppression in the history of Israel near the end of Old Testament times when the people were ruled by foreign kings. The Jews were divided, some remained faithful to their God, and others obeyed the foreigners’ laws that were against their traditions and beliefs.  The central event was the desecration of the temple in Jerusalem.  These books are included in the Catholic canon because of certain doctrinal issues including prayers and sacrifices for the dead, intercession of the saints and resurrection on Judgement Day.  They are particularly meaningful during November because of this.         

Although in South Africa the majority of people profess to be Christians the state now considers itself a secular state although the Constitution grants freedom of religion to everyone, Christians as well as African Independent churches, Hindus, Muslims, Jews and other minority recognized faiths. While this is good it has also allowed 1000s of little “churches” to mushroom, some of which have become very popular but have also spread very misleading beliefs. However, here and elsewhere in the world the Christian religion is being lost from the public domain as it is removed from school curriculae and public places. This is a serious loss also through the loss of moral values which Christianity has always promoted.   

In those days lawless men came from Israel and misled many saying,Let us make a covenant with the Gentiles round about us. For since we separated from them many evils have come upon us.”  Many stood firm and were resolved in their hearts to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant. From 1 Mac 1    Pope Francis:   Keeping our missionary fervor alive calls for firm trust in the Holy Spirit, for it is he who helps us in our weakness.   But this generous trust has to be nourished and so we need to invoke the Spirit constantly.  The Holy Spirit knows well what is needed in every time and place. EG280   All is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start, despite their mental and social conditioning. No system can completely suppress our openness to what is good, true and beautiful, or our God-given ability to respond to his grace at work deep in our hearts.  LS 205. Reflect, share, act and pray