In the first reading today, a mother sees her seven sons executed for refusing to violate one of the Jewish laws. After 6 of her sons are killed in front of her, the king asks her to convince her last son to violate the Hebrew law and eat pork. In exchange for his violation, the king will not only spare his life, but will give him many riches. The mother tells her son: “Do not be afraid of this executioner, but be worthy of your brothers and accept death, so that in the time of mercy I may receive you again with them.”
Many people who read the first reading today would think of the mother as incredibly foolish for not trying to convince her sons to eat the pork and live. Others would think she is crazy. But what does scripture say about this mother?
“Most admirable and worthy of everlasting remembrance was the mother, who saw her seven sons perish in a single day yet bore it courageously because of her hope in the Lord.”
Faith, Hope, and Charity
So why did the mother not try to save her last son, but actually encouraged him to accept the same fate as his brothers? For the same reason as St. Cecilia (whose feast is today) and all the martyrs. They possessed the three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity. Faith, hope, and charity are what enable us to understand why the martyrs do what they did and give us the strength to do the same. The theological virtues are not something we can gain by our power. They are a free gift from God, and only He can increase our faith, hope, and charity. This is because the theological virtues are supernatural, that is, they are above our human nature.
St. Thomas Aquinas says “the end of the moral virtues perfect man’s intellect and appetite, according to the capacity of human nature. Whereas the theological virtues elevate us in the things above human nature.” So, although we must turn to God for the theological virtues, He desires to give them to us— we just have to ask for them and be disposed to receive them! Pray daily for an increase in faith, hope, and charity. Receiving the sacraments often and praying with scripture daily for 20 minutes are great ways to dispose yourself well to receive these virtues.
Die as We Live
While death bed conversions are possible, most of us die as we live. The mother in Maccabees and most of the martyrs lived lives of great virtue and love for the Lord. May we all have a renewed fervor to grow in virtue and love for our Lord this week, so that should we ever be called upon to give our life for Christ, we may have lived a life worthy of so great a death.
St. Cecilia and the Maccabean martyrs, pray for us!
“To die for Christ is not to sacrifice one’s youth, but to renew it. It is relinquishing a perishable thing and receiving in turn an immortal gift.” -St. Cecilia