Archive for December 12th, 2020

Saturday, December 12, 2020

We continue our journey through troubled days of pandemic that teach us the lesson of waiting. These days also teach us that temples are not always the safe places we imagine. They teach us that physical temples are always plundered. They teach us that the temple of Mary’s waiting is a sacred lesson we will want to learn. 

Raphael: The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple

Raphael: The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple2 Maccabees 3

An Attempt to Plunder the Temple

Today’s reading is a story about a man named Heliodorus, treasurer to King Seleucus IV of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire from 187 to 175 B.C.E. It is also the story of a man named Simon, superintendent of the Jerusalem temple, who argued with the high priest Onias . . . and decided to exact revenge.

There are some important points to consider when we read this chapter.

  • Footnotes tell us that this book of the Bible is likely a condensation of a many-tome collection of events which occurred just before the Romans took control of the Middle East.
  • Looking ahead, we can see the story of Simon and his deception does not end. Simon escapes unscathed from this deceitful confrontation but when we move into the Gospels, we know that the corruption we see in this story eventually brings about the fall of the temple.  History tells us that this happened about 40 years following Jesus’ death . . . and the rest of the Good News which we know so well unfolds.
  • The Jewish community was exempt from paying Greeks taxes on all temple sacrifices, and this practice was re-negotiated later with the Romans.
  • The Jewish community took care of widows and orphans from this temple fund; and wealthy Jews “hid” their money from taxation in this temple fund which was administered well and poorly, depending upon who was in control at the time.

The messages that run through this chapter are important for us today:  1) where we find money, power and fame we will also find treachery, jealousy and corruption, 2) the anguish of the faithful is heard and answered by God, and 3) even those who come to attack us may experience a change of heart.

As we continue our Advent journey, how does all of this speak to us today?

Tomorrow . . . A Prayer for the Plundered

Adapted from a reflection written on January 5, 2008.

In the artist Raphael’s depiction of these angels of God who intervene for the faithful on God’s behalf, we see the mysterious mounted man with his two compatriots on the right as they strike Heliodorus down.  http://www.abcgallery.com/R/raphael/raphael37.html

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