There arose from them 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 arose in Israel and misled many, saying, "Let us 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. Very great wrath came upon Israel.
Lord I am seized with indignation
at the wicked who forsake your law.
Though the nets of the wicked ensnared me
I remembered your law. (R./)
Redeem me from man's oppression
and I will keep your precepts.
Those who harm me unjustly draw near.
They are far from your law. (R./)
Salvation is far from the wicked
who are heedless of your statutes.
I look at the faithless with disgust;
they ignore your promise. (R./)
As Jesus 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.
The rebellion of the Maccabees was against the attempted paganising of Israel around the year 168 B.C. Their political overlord, Antiochus of Syria, wanted to force his Jewish subjects to conform to all the Hellenistic laws and culture of the surrounding nations. He provoked a military crisis by trying to suppress Jewish religious traditions in order to make them embrace the ways of modernity. This kind of crisis has echoes in today's Ireland, where an influential elite are imposing a strongly secularist world view and lifestyle.
The blind man sitting at the Jericho gate needed the restoration of his eyesight, so he asked Jesus aloud, "Lord, that I may see!" Even when the bystanders wanted to silence him, he was willing to take his chances and shoulted even more loudly. After receiving back the gift of his sight, he began to follow Jesus, giving glory to God. His life now had a new focus. He could see his wife and children, his friends and surroundings, as treasured gifts. The shining sun, the palm trees in the oasis, the birds gliding in the sky, the bees buzzing in his garden, this whole wonderful world was visible as he followed Jesus along the way.
Our conversion may not be as total or dramatic, but we should ask for the vision to see the world and others as God's blessing, and to see how the Lord is leading us, right here and now.
There is something endearing about the blind man who kept on shouting until somebody listened. In the face of opposition, he perseveres in his prayer. When he asked, "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me," the onlookers scolded him and told him to keep quiet. But he simply shouted his prayer out louder, "Son of David, have pity on me." Undeterred by other people's intolerant attitude, he models for us what persevering prayer looks like. It was driven by his need and his confidence in Jesus.
Our own heartfelt petition can be driven by some deep need we feel. In bringing our need to God we open ourselves for a blessing, just as the blind man did when he brought his need to Jesus. He did not cease to pray when he was healed, though now his prayer was changed to thanksgiving and praise. The prayer of thanks may not come as naturally to us as the prayer of need. But we all have much to thank God for. The blind man teaches us not to forget to say thanks for all the ways the Lord has blessed us.