Today's reading from the book of Maccabees
details a horrific incident of religious intolerance:
the arrest, torture, and murder of seven children
as their mother was forced to look on
before she too was murdered.
Their crime: they were Jews.
Their religion forbade eating pork,
and they refused to go against the teaching of their religion.
Our U.S. Bishops have written extensively
in defense of religious liberty for all.
Four years ago they issued a document titled
Our First, Most Cherished Liberty.
It asserted that:
“If religious liberty is not respected, all people suffer.”
And Dignitatis Humanae,
the Vatican II document on religious liberty,
is absolutely clear:
we have a right to religious freedom,
to be immune from coercion,
never to be forced to act in a manner contrary to our beliefs.
And we are obliged to defend the right to religious liberty
not only for ourselves but also for others.
We know that we have not always done that.
The U.S. Bishops admit that
“our history has shadows in terms of religious liberty,
when we did not extend to others
the proper respect for this first freedom.”
Religious freedom does not mean
that people of other faiths have to follow our rules.
We have a lot of work to do.
the systematic mistreatment
of an individual or group of individuals
as a response to their religious beliefs or affiliations
or persecution because they have no religious belief—
is rampant in countries all over our planet.
It's easy to point to places like North Korea, China,
Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh.
But it's here, too.
In some cases it's a combination
of racial or ethnic intolerance
with religious intolerance.
Again and again we hear the TV reports
of bombing incidents in Black churches in the south.
Islamophobia is more widespread than the common cold,
even here in holy Toledo.
Three years ago the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo was torched.
The arsonist said he wanted to “get some payback” for 9/11.
The 9/11 terrorists, like the Maccabees,
were willing to die for what they believed.
like people who bomb churches and set fire to mosques—
and unlike the Maccabees—
do not respect the religious freedom of others.
The Maccabees did not launch terrorist attacks
on those they saw as perverse and wicked.
They used peaceful means of persuasion,
resisting with the words of truth
and the endurance of their hearts.
They were ready to die
rather than go against their religious beliefs.
With so many shouts of vengeance in our world today,
we need to reflect on the message here.
Luke's gospel shows us the way of Jesus:
he engages in dialogue.
He resists with words of truth.
Today's passage is part of a series of attempts
by the local religious leadership
to force Jesus to take sides on the political issues of his time.
The Sadducees—who, unlike the Pharisees,
do not believe in resurrection—
ask Jesus that loaded question
about the status of levirate marriage in the afterlife.
Jesus takes the side of the Pharisees but avoids the trap.
Just before that question, they had asked him
whether it's lawful to pay taxes to Caesar,
and Jesus avoided that trap with that well-known line,
“Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.
When the questions end,
Jesus tells his disciples to be wary of leaders
who parade around for attention
but ignore the plight of widows and orphans.
So these scriptures remind us once again that,
because we are followers of the Way of Jesus,
we include in our preparation for voting
of whether or not the candidates
respect the religious freedom of all peoples
and whether the issues tend to the needs of the poor.
We're back to that basic rule of our faith,
the one that guides everything we do,
the one that identifies us as Christians:
love one another!
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue
Toledo, OH 43606
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006