1 Maccabees 5:11-27: The Holy Place
A Favorite from November 4, 2009.
Puffed up in spirit, Antiochus did not realize that it was because of the sins of the city’s inhabitants that the Lord was angry for a little while and hence disregarded the holy Place.
Today’s reading is a frightening one and yet in verse 17 we find the key to all that baffles us when we suffer. We become puffed up when things go well, thinking that we have achieved all on our own, forgetting that God is the source of every goodness that comes to us. We, like Antiochus the hated pagan invader, pay no heed to holy places or holy people when we tumble head long in our belief that we have created our own good. We, like Antiochus may succeed for a while and may even feel a certain pride in what we believe we have accomplished alone. And we, like Antiochus will live a troubled and violent life.
Once, when I was at a low point in my life, I asked God why a particular holy place had been breached and the holy people routed. My answer came immediately: All earthly temples are violated eventually. All the faithful will suffer in God’s name.
When we feel squeezed. When we feel oppressed. When we feel unjustly condemned. When our holy places are violated and holy people broken, we can be assured that the Lord has not chosen the people for the sake of the Place, but the Place for the sake of the people (verse 19). We can rest in the knowledge that with or without the place, with or without the rest of the faithful . . . we can be holy, we can be constant, we can find within ourselves the Holy Place in where dwells the Spirit. We can rest in God . . . for God alone is holy.