December 22nd. The Maccabees. The two books of the Maccabees recount historical events around 180 BC at the time of the desecration of the temple in Jerusalem by Greek rulers of Israel at that time and the eventual rededication celebrated as Hanukkah. The story of the martyrdom of a mother and her 7 sons describes in horrific detail how each of the sons was tortured and killed for refusing to eat pork which for them would violate God’s laws. The last to die was the mother who had watched her sons and all the time encouraged them to be faithful to their tradition and their belief in life after death.

“Since it is the Creator of the universe who shapes each man’s beginning as he brings about the origin of everything, he, in his mercy, will give you back both breath and life, because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of his law.” 2 Mac 23. Pope Francis: We direct our gaze to the end of time when the Son will deliver all things to the Father, so that ‘God may be everything to every one. (I Cor 15:28) The creatures of this world no longer appear to us under merely natural guise because the risen One is mysteriously holding them to himself and directing them towards fullness as their end. LS 100.

Points for reflection and discussion. It is recognised that in the present era more Christians and other believers have been killed for their beliefs than ever before. Children can learn from hearing stories of these martyrs rather than only modern day secular heroes. How strong is our faith in the face of opposition and what sacrifices are we prepared to make for our beliefs?