In our first reading today, we hear an account of the suffering of one of the most courageous women in the history of Israel, the Mother of the seven Maccabean martyrs. She, along with her seven sons, sided with the Maccabean rebels against the Seleucid conquerors who were trying to stamp out Judaism. Challenged to declare their loyalty to the Seleucid empire by eating pork, she and all her sons refused. Antiochus, the Seleucid King, had her sons killed one by one in her presence. He kept promising her and her sons great favor if they would pledge their loyalty to him. Encouraged by the words and faithfulness of their Mother, the sons, one by one refused and were tortured and put to death. Today we hear the story of her youngest son and the encouragement she gave him. Her courage in the face of such a horrible threat and suffering has become a model for everyone persecuted for their faith.
Courage of a different sort is highlighted in today’s Gospel. The courage to use the gifts God gives us to help build the kingdom. So often we let fear keep us from using our gifts effectively. Our fear of making a mistake, or of being misjudged by others, or of taking a risk can keep us from acting in an unexpected situation. Through his parable, Jesus clearly calls us to have the courage to use our talents and gifts to transform our world.
Today, as we remember the courage of the seven Maccabean Martyrs and their extraordinary Mother as well as the challenge of Jesus to use our talents and gifts to build up the Kingdom of God, we pray that we, too, may meet the challenges in our lives with courage and faith.
Fr. Michael Higgins, C.P. is the director of retreats at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.