Friday, 33rd Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

In the year 167 before Christ, the empire dominating the Jews, in attempt to unify their peoples, forbid the Jewish sacrifices, banned observance of the Sabbath and feasts, and outlawed circumcision. Altars to Zeus and other Greek gods were set up in the temple, and unclean animals, like pigs, were sacrificed upon them. In response, Mattathias Maccabeus and his sons led a Jewish revolt against their oppressors. Two years later, they had crushed their enemies and went up to purify the temple and to rededicate it for proper worship.

Two hundred years later, another zealous lover of God’s law went up to the temple to cleanse it and rededicate for true worship. Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.”

After the Maccabees had rededicated the temple they celebrated for eight days.  When they relit the seven wicks of the menorah in the sanctuary they only had enough olive oil on hand to keep it burning for one day.  But, by a miracle, it is said that the lamp kept burning for eight days, long enough to press, prepare and consecrate more fresh oil. The rededication of the temple and this miracle are still commemorated in our time as a Jewish holy day.  From the Hebrew word for “dedication” or “consecration”, the Jews call this celebration “Hanukkah.”

Christ has dedicated and consecrated us as the new temple and house of God. How are we to keep our temple lamps lit? How are we to obtain oil for our souls? We are not to do it by grasping, by stealing things from the world, in a vain effort to fill ourselves. The Lord’s house is not to be a den of thieves. Instead, we must pray, asking for the grace we need to remain burning brightly. As Jesus said, “My house shall be a house of prayer.”

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