2 Maccabees 6:18-31
Our readings might puzzle us. Two models of holiness are presented by the scriptures: a scribe and a tax collector! Readers of the New Testament might wonder about the scribe. Readers of the Old Testament might wonder about the tax collector. For Eleazar, the scribe, his whole life as a faithful Jew and observer of the Law came down to a very public symbolic action of refusing to eat pork. He chose death by torture rather than bow to the power of the state. He is praised by the author of Maccabees as "a model of courage and an unforgettable example of virtue not only for the young but for the whole nation." We ourselves need to realize that often we are pressured by society and culture to make accommodations and compromises in our moral beliefs.
Are we willing to stand up publically for what we believe?
Zacchaeus, the tax collector, stands in a totally different space than Eleazar. The tax collector class was despised as tools of the Roman occupation. In the provinces the Romans sold the office of tax collector to the highest bidder and the winners then squeezed every nickel they could from ordinary citizens. Luke notes that Zacchaeus had become wealthy from his position. No model of holiness here! Then Zacchaeus experienced a moment of truth. Looking down from his perch in a tree he sees the face of Jesus looking up at him and hears an extraordinary invitation: "Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for I must stay at your house." Did Jesus have a smile of welcome on his face? Zecchaeus becomes a new person. Joy floods his heart. "Lord, half my possessions I will give to the poor! And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I shall repay it four times over." Zacchaeus becomes the model of the repentant sinner. He who was lost is now saved. He lives in a new place.
St. Eleazar and St. Zacchaeus, pray for us.
Fr. Michael Hoolahan, C.P. is on the staff of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.