Let the Great Beware!

1 Maccabees 2:21-22
Far be it from us to desert the law and the ordinances. We will not obey the king’s words by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left.

The man who spoke these words, Mattathias, was a genuine hero, like the rest of his family.  The book that records their exploits — 1 Maccabees — is a genuinely exciting tale of a bunch of underdogs and victims of vicious religious persecution who banded together and, against all odds, threw out the oppressor and re-established their ancient ancestral customs of worship and life.  It is a story every modern can read with pleasure because it celebrates things naturally attractive to us, such as the right of self-government, the triumph of the little guy, the downfall of tyrants and all the rest.  However, beyond this, it has a further lesson for us that we need to hear: these people, great and heroic and honorable as they were, are the forbears of the people known to history as the Sadducees, the people who, in their greatness, rejected Jesus Christ.  It is worth remembering that we are never so much in spiritual danger as when we are really and truly good and noble — and come to know it and congratulate ourselves for it.

Mark Shea

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Mark P. Shea is a Catholic author, blogger, and speaker.

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