With the excess amount of time we all have on our hands, I thought I’d take advantage of our Parishes free FORMED account. I have previously watched a few things prior but usually just for research or class. There was a series on Divine Mercy that caught my eye for two reasons. One, it had a picture of Saint John Paul II so how could I not click on it, and I recently started reciting my daily chaplet after my daily rosary. Can’t go out so why not spend more time praying.
Divine Mercy with Fr. Michael Gaitley in the second greatest story ever told is the title. It’s a 10-part series inspired by Fr. Michael’s book “The Second Greatest story ever told.” Fr. Michael is the director of evangelization for the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception but most famous for his book “33 Days to Morning Glory.” The series is produced by Augustine Institute’s Film Studio and I’m a sucker for breathtaking cinematography and documentary style videos so I had to give it a try.
Each part of the 10-part series focuses on a specific person and timeline in the history of the Catholic Church that reaffirms this is the time of mercy and how we go here. You learn about pivotal players like St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Faustina, St. John Paul II, St. Lucia, and more. People you wouldn’t imagine had anything to do with the story of Divine Mercy.
What I love best about this series is it opened my eyes to just how large the story and movement of Divine Mercy is and how it played an impactful role in real world events. World War I&II were blood baths for all of Europe and it could have been wildly avoided with faith in Mary and listening to her wishes.
There were more martyrs in the 20th century than any other century. This series reminds us of the importance of mercy now more than ever. Pray for the souls of those who lost their lives. I would recommend this series to anyone, Catholic or not.
Chapter 14 we hear of the capturing of King Demetrius while he was on his way to defeat King Trypho. Demetrius would go on to spend 50 years in captivity and upon release regained his throne a short while until his assassination. Then the storyteller switches gears and attention to Simon who has confirmed peace with the Spartans and Romans. There are great decrees written in his name and he is named general and high priest of the Jewish nation. Peace was once restored in the land.
Chapter 15 we see more betrayal from the throne of Antiochus. The chapter begins with a letter exchanged between his nation and the Jewish nation reassuring them of the previously established peace treaties by his father. But when Antiochus and his men begin attacking Trypho, Simon sends him troops and is punished for it, it completely enrages the king. Some speculate that Antiochus wanted to regain the land on his own so he was not indebted to the Jewish people but it could also have to do with Simon’s alliance with Rome. A territory probably next on Antiochus’ hit list.
Chapter 16 is the concluding chapter of 1 Maccabees and sets the stage for the next period of time in Judea. Simon and two of his sons are assassinated leaving John alone. John has just come off winning a battle against Cendebeus and began making a name for himself and living up to the family name. We do not know what will go on to become of John, that is for another book and another story.
Maccabees offer a perspective on what it's like to have to fight for religious freedom and power. To be persecuted in the land of your ancestors is humiliating and demoralizing but this great family took it upon themselves with their faith and trust in God to stand up for their faith. Even to today, the Church continues to be persecuted and the Gospel message is not welcome in all corners of the world. What can we do to save our Church? Seek God, put your faith in God, and stay true to the path he has paved for you. We are the resurrected people, lets us continue by the grace of God to defend it.
I’m sorry for the delay in posting the next part of our Maccabees Bible study but it has been very nice knowing so many of you are patiently awaiting the next part and learning along with me.
Chapter 12 we see Jonathan continue to seek peace with all of his surrounding kingdoms. He successfully does so with Rome and the Spartans. Then Jonathan meets Trypho, a man looking to take the throne, Jonathan perceives him as a righteous man and follows him into the city. There Jonathan is captured and his 1,000 soldiers are killed. When word reaches Israel, they fall into a deep state of mourning leaving themselves vulnerable to an attack, especially with their ruler in custody of the enemy.
Chapter 13 begins with Simon assuming the throne as leader of the Jewish people. Simon reassures them he knows the plan God has for him and will not turn away and uphold the family legacy of fighting for the law and temple. When Simon comes face to face with Trypho, Trypho offers a deal for the release of Jonathan. Simon does as he says and Trypho goes and doesn’t hold up his end having Jonathan killed. Simon and his soldiers matched all the moves of Trypho’s soldiers and eventually the battle was delayed because of the snow fall. Simon would go on to make peace with Demetrius and continue to rid the surrounding area of idols and impurity all while having great mercy on the people. Everything Simon did was for the glory of God. His greatest achievement came when he was able to rid the citadel of the gentiles and totally regain control of Judah.
The Maccabees family sets the example of an early missionary. They never looked upon the gentiles as enemies but rather as people who needed to be converted. Although they used force to rid people of their land, it was only for them to come in and purify it in accordance with the law. The more purified land they had, the more territory God would dwell over them on. All of us have neighbors or even relatives who do not follow God. Let us take the example of Simon and have mercy on all those who do not know the way that we may strive to show them the way.
Next part we will be discussing 1 Maccabees 14-16
Chapter 11 begins with great betrayal, a common theme in the Old Testament. After giving his daughter to King Alexander, King Ptolemy of Egypt begins to get greedy and wants to take Asia and grow his kingdom. Knowing Demetrius’ hate of Alexander and the Jewish people, he gave his daughter to Demetrius as part of an alliance. Then he marches into Asia and takes the throne while Alexander is away. Alexander was defeated by Ptolemy and the latter died three days later making Demetrius sole ruler of all three kingdoms. Once again, he tried to make peace with the Jewish people and this time his terms were accepted. Everything seemed at peace in the kingdom but we all knew that wasn’t going to stand.
Demetrius would prove untrustworthy when he grows distant from Jonathan and doesn’t fulfill his promise of reward after winning in battle. So along comes Trypho with Alexander's youngest son Antiochus. They align themselves with the Jewish people and appoint Jonathan to the high priesthood as well as gifts of gold. Jonathan would later go to war with Demetrius and be abandoned by his entire army except for a few men and would miraculously win the battle.
This chapter offers two great lessons, one being when things seem settled and normal, don’t expect them to stay that way. We shouldn’t only praise God in the storm but during the sunshine too. Jonathan’s relentless faith allowed him to invoke the help of God and defeat any battle put in front of him. We also see God has favor on people who do the right thing. Jonathan not once after being crossed and betrayed fought out of vengeance, rather he seeks what’s best for his people, God’s people. Don’t put your trust in man but rather God.
For Friday, please read chapter 12 and 13.
As we journey along through Maccabees together, I want to remind everyone of how important it is to read, study, and meditate on scripture. This book just happens to be one of my favorites in the Old Testament but no book is better than another. If God isn’t speaking to you through Judas and his family, then find another book that does. I want these studies to enhance the knowledge and prayer of those people who are reached by these stories. If you have a book that has spoken to you, let me know in the comments and we can read through it together.
Chapter 10 begins with news of Alexander, descendant of Antiochus, taking Ptolemais. Historians say he was a fraud and was from Smyrna. The author of Maccabees accepted Alexander as king because of his opposition to Demetrius. Now both kings were fighting for the loyalty and support of Jonathan and the Jewish people after seeing all the wars they had won. Demetrius put in the first bid and was rejected by the Jewish people. Alexander rebutted with an offer to make Jonathan high priest and Jonathan accepted. This symbolizes the friendship of the king to Jonathan and offers protection to his people. It’s important to remember Jonathan is from a priestly family, this we assume is another reason why he took this offer. Demetrius wasn’t going to give up easily so he returned with an offer no reasonable person could resist but Jonathan, recalling the trouble Demetrius caused his people, decided to refuse and stay aligned with Alexander.
Now with Jonathan on his side, Alexander sets out for battle against Demitrius and defeats and kills him. Now with sole possession of the Monarchy, Alexander sets his eyes on an alliance with Egypt. He proposed marriage to the daughter of the Egyptian king and an agreement was reached. Jonathan was present at the ceremony and was seated at the side of the king. Then comes the return of Apollonius and the son of Demetrius, Demitrius II. They set out to battle against Jonathan and his men. Apollonius was the man who killed his brother Judas, this certainly enraged Jonathan and his family and fought valiantly. They managed to destroy the pagan temple and the surrounding area. Jewish law was now the religious law of the kingdom. With command of the royal army, seat of high priesthood, no more pagan temples, surely Jonathan and the Israelites finally felt at ease, but did not know what was coming ahead.
On Monday we will be discussing chapter 11.
Chapter 9 we see the death of Judas after the persistent attacks by king Demetrius. The Israelites were intimidated by the size of the king’s army and retreated and fled but Judas along with 800 men stayed and were defeated. Judas was valiant and wanted to fight for his people and accepted whatever God was gonna do with his life.
Jonathan, brother of Judas, was appointed as the new ruler of Israel. Bacchides was sent back to destroy him and all the people. Jonathan turned towards God and asked for his protection and God delivered. Jonathan and his men swam across the Jordan for protection and Bacchides was unable to reach them.
Once again God delivered them from harm muting the mouth of Alcimus, a persecutor sent by the king to destroy Israel, would die in great agony. Peace would be reached between the two nations and for now the Jewish people could live in peace.
For Friday, please read chapter 10.
Chapter seven of 1 Maccabees begins with the expedition of Bacchides and Alcimus. Bacchides is a loyal supporter and friend of king Demetrius and Alcimus is a power driven high priest. The two men are tasked with defeating Judas and taking down the Israelites. Alcimus’ plan was to deceive the Israelites with fake peace offerings. The Hasideans fell but God did not allow the same to happen to Judas and his camp. Judas was alerted to the terrible things Alcimus was doing, far worse than the Gentiles, and scared him back to the king who accused Judas and his men of crimes they did not do. This is a great example of how God not only protects his people but his protection of the innocent. The king now had no choice but to send in someone else, Nicanor. Once again the man of the king tried to deceive the Israelites but their plan was foiled. Nicanor regrouped and returned with an army but God once again answered the cry from his people and led Judas to the defeat of Nicanor. Because Nicanor said blasphemous things about the temple and the priest, Judas removed the head of Nicanor and displayed it from the Jewish citadel as an example of what will happen to all those who go against the law.
Chapter eight we see the uprise and appearance of the Roman empire for the first time in the entire Bible to this point. Judas makes haste to seek an alliance with them as they quickly gain control of anyone they want. Rome agrees to align with the Jewish nation and offer it’s full support of them if someone were to wage battle and even sent a warning to king Demetrius.
As you read this, we both know what Rome will end up doing to our church and the story of the Bible but this important alliance is a small part of the salvation story fulfilled when the Romans put Jesus to death.
For Wednesday, please read chapter nine.
Chapter six brings about a lot of changes for the Israelites. First we learn about the death of King Antiochus IV after his defeat to Judas and his army again. The news that the Israelites reclaimed the altar in Jerusalem and built a fort around it terrified him and he instantly was struck down by shame and fear. God opened his heart and made him realize he unnecessarily took all of this away from the Jewish people and now had the blood of thousands of his soldiers on his hands after fighting a war that didn’t need to happen. Before his death we learn that the king appoints Philip over control of his throne until his son, who was nine at the time, was old enough and prepared to take over.
Lysias learns of the plans of Judas and his army to overrun the citadel and to force the removal of Gentile occupation from outside their temple. Lysias sends his men to reason with the new king. Although the Bible doesn’t give us the king’s response, war is waged. Lysias under the command of king Philip took an enormous army to fight Judas and his men. It was a famine year so the food surplus was very low with all the new Jews now seeking asylum with Judas, causing the Jewish army to grow weaker and perish. A man by the name of Eleazar, rushed what he thought was an elephant carrying the king, who was still in persia, and killed him at what we assume now was the climax of the war. Jews began to retreat and fall into the walls of the sanctuary.
Then a miracle happens, Lysias hears Philip is returning from his trip to Persia and is seeking to take over the entire government so he, along with his army, leave the battle and withdraw home in order to reason with the king over peace treaties. Lysias did not leave them any civil liberties but with religious ones which is all the Jews wanted. The rulers realize it was lack of religious liberties that they pursued these battles and wars, not out of unhappiness with civil authority. King Antiochus V agreed to allow the Jewish people their own dietary and religious sacrifices at no crime against the kingdom.
In ancient times when multiple rulers were appointed by the king to oversee large kingdoms, personal goals and desires get the better of them. God appoints his priest to oversee his kingdom here on earth, let us pray today that they uphold the will of God and help us keep our religious freedoms even when all else seems lost.
For Monday, please read chapter 7 and 8.
The Gentile forces in chapter five remind me of a bad gambling problem and the great fear surrounding gambling. Let’s say you go to the casino with 100 pennies and sit down at the penny slot machine (I’ve only been to a casino twice in my life so if this isn’t actually how it works I’m sorry) and you are infatuated by the bright lights and the desire to win so badly you spend all of your pennies because you want to achieve something that you don’t actually need to do. This is also similar to the little child who wants that brand new bike in July and is willing to sacrifice a year's worth of birthday and christmas gifts for it right now and then being upset when he doesn’t get any gifts that christmas. The king wanted so badly to defeat Judas he exhorted an entire nation and lost all of their lives because he wanted to institute his pagan religion.
Judas once again shows incredible trust and faith in God as he splits up his men to cover all of the surrounding Gentile camps. The fierce warrior won all of his battles and plundered all of the cities. I like that the author makes it a point to mention he only kills the male population, although Judas is ferociously killing thousands of people, he’s only doing it out of protection for God’s people and his zeal to uphold the law. He isn’t looking to collect blood but defeat the pagan oppression of his people which in these times would only happen through the males. Don’t allow the number of deaths to distract you from the faithful work Judas is fulfilling.
There is one line from this chapter I want to call to attention and that is 1 Maccabees 5:62 which says “But they did not belong to the family of those men to whom it was granted to achieve Israel’s salvation.” Protestants don’t include the book of Maccabees in their Bibles because of the lack of accreditation it has and divine intervention on the inspiration for writing it. When you look at all that Judas and his family accomplished in squandering the pagan oppression of the law and how many men they were able to defeat, they truly were chosen by God to uphold this law. These two books show how much love and salvation God had for his chosen people who kept his covenant. I think the family of Judas is proof itself of divine intervention and is absolutely a necessity to the salvation story.
For Friday, please read 1 Maccabees 6.
In chapter four we once again see Judas and his Israelite army have to bunker down and fight off the gentiles. After defeating the first fleet, Lysias went away angered and increased his army six fold and returned one year later to wage battle. Through this entire time, Judas reencouraged his fellow Jews with unshakeable hope and trust in God. Let's take one more look at his powerful prayer “So now let us cry to Heaven in the hope that he will favor us, remember his covenant with our fathers, and destroy this army today. All the Gentiles shall know that there is One who redeems and delivers us.” (1 Maccabees 4:10-11) Judas recalls how generous and loving God was to their ancestors and how he wasn’t going to let them suffer a different fate. The goal of the fight wasn’t to plunder their land and riches but to show them that God redeems and saves his people and keeps his covenant if you obey the law.
Lysias lost almost 5,000 men in battle and began to recognize the tenacity of Judas and how they were all ok with being martyred if it meant not disobeying the law, and retreated back to Antioch leaving the Jewish people victorious. Now that their enemies have been defeated, Judas and his camp returned home to fix the damage done by the Gentiles.
Judas instructed the most blameless and zealous priest in his camp to rededicate everything exactly according to the law. They removed the vandalized altar and built a new one. The burned incense, lit the lamp post, built up the walls, and hung new curtains. They made new priest vestments out of the finest materials. When this was all done they sacrificed and worshipped God, their deliverer for eight straight days. A tradition they’d keep every year on the anniversary to recount the dedication of their altar and the defeat of the gentiles. Does eight days sound familiar for another Jewish tradition? This feast would eventually develop into Hanukkah which is a tradition held by Jews to this day.
Not only does chapter four give us the roots of Hanukkah, it shows us the uncanny faith and trust the Israelites had in God and how greatly they were rewarded. Today, pray for the souls lost in battle to defend their religious freedom, something still not granted in every country. Let us take Judas as a great example and live our lives with the faith he did.
For Wednesday, read chapter 5.