Day 309 – Praying for the Dead

Thoughts and Reflection

Today we read about a lot of destruction and war. We also read about praying for the dead. After the battle, the Jews go out and bring the bodies of the dead. Judas Maccabeus takes up a collection and sends out two thousand drachmas of silver to Jerusalem as an offering for those who have died.

We also read in the book of Wisdom that the author addresses those who turn to idols and the foolishness of asking a created object for help instead of turning to the Lord himself. We should all be able to perceive the reality of God from the beauty of created things.

About This Project

For the year 2022, I decided that my New Year’s Resolution was to read the whole Bible following the Bible in the Year plan presented by Fr. Mike Schmitz. It is a big and bold undertaking. You can follow along by subscribing. Feel free to look at previous day’s post and comment. It’s something we can all learn from together!

Daily Readings

2 Maccabees 12

1 These agreements once concluded, Lysias returned to the king and the Jews went back to their farming.

2 Among the local generals, Timotheus and Apollonius son of Gennaeus, as also Hieronymus and Demophon, and Nicanor the Cypriarch as well, would not allow the Jews to live in peace and quiet.

3 The people of Joppa committed a particularly wicked crime: they invited the Jews living among them to go aboard some boats they had lying ready, taking their wives and children. There was no hint of any intention to harm them;

4 there had been a public vote by the citizens, and the Jews accepted, as well they might, being peaceable people with no reason to suspect anything. But once out in the open sea they were all sent to the bottom, a company of at least two hundred.

5 When Judas heard of the cruel fate of his countrymen, he issued his orders to his men

6 and after invoking God, the just judge, he attacked his brothers’ murderers. Under cover of dark he set fire to the port, burned the boats and put to the sword everyone who had taken refuge there.

7 As the town gates were closed, he withdrew, intending to come back and wipe out the whole community of Joppa.

8 But hearing that the people of Jamnia were planning to treat their resident Jews in the same way,

9 he made a night attack on the Jamnites and fired the port with its fleet; the glow of the flames was seen as far off as Jerusalem, thirty miles away.

10 When they had left the town barely a mile behind them in their advance on Timotheus, Judas was attacked by an Arab force of at least five thousand foot soldiers, with five hundred cavalry.

11 A fierce engagement followed, and with God’s help Judas’ men won the day; the defeated nomads begged Judas to offer them the right hand of friendship, and promised to surrender their herds and make themselves generally useful to him.

12 Realising that they might indeed prove valuable in many ways, Judas consented to make peace with them and after an exchange of pledges the Arabs withdrew to their tents.

13 Judas also attacked a certain fortified town, closed by ramparts and inhabited by a medley of races; its name was Caspin.

14 Confident in the strength of their walls and their stock of provisions, the besieged adopted an insolent attitude to Judas and his men, reinforcing their insults with blasphemies and profanity.

15 But Judas and his men invoked the great Sovereign of the world who without battering-ram or siege-engine had overthrown Jericho in the days of Joshua; they then made a fierce assault on the wall.

16 By God’s will, having captured the town, they made such indescribable slaughter that the nearby lake, a quarter of a mile across, seemed filled to overflowing with blood.

17 Ninety-five miles further on from there, they reached the Charax, in the country of Jews known as Tubians.

18 They did not find Timotheus himself in that neighbourhood; he had already left the district, having achieved nothing apart from leaving a very strong garrison at one point.

19 Dositheus and Sosipater, two of the Maccabaean generals, marched out and destroyed the force Timotheus had left behind in the fortress, amounting to more than ten thousand men.

20 Maccabaeus himself divided his army into cohorts to which he assigned commanders, and then hurried in pursuit of Timotheus, whose troops numbered one hundred and twenty thousand infantry and two thousand five hundred cavalry.

21 Timotheus’ first move on learning of Judas’ advance was to send away the women and children and the rest of the baggage train to the place called the Carnaim, since it was an impregnable position, difficult of access owing to the narrowness of all the approaches.

22 Judas’ cohort came into sight first. The enemy, seized with fright and panic-stricken by the manifestation of the All-seeing, began to flee, one running this way, one running that, often wounding one another in consequence and running on the points of one another’s swords.

23 Judas pursued them with a will, cutting the sinners to pieces and killing something like thirty thousand men.

24 Timotheus himself, having fallen into the hands of Dositheus and Sosipater and their men, very craftily pleaded with them to let him go with his life, on the grounds that he had the relatives and even the brothers of many of them in his power, and that these could otherwise expect short shrift.

25 When at long last he convinced them that he would honour his promise and return these people safe and sound, they let him go for the sake of saving their brothers.

26 Reaching the Carnaim and the Atargateion, Judas slaughtered twenty-five thousand men.

27 Having defeated and destroyed them, he led his army against Ephron, a fortified town, where Lysanias was living. Stalwart young men drawn up outside the walls offered vigorous resistance, while inside there were quantities of war-engines and missiles in reserve.

28 But the Jews, having invoked the Sovereign who by his power shatters enemies’ defences, gained control of the town and cut down nearly twenty-five thousand of the people inside.

29 Moving off from there, they pressed on to Scythopolis,

30 seventy-five miles from Jerusalem. But as the Jews who had settled there assured Judas that the people of Scythopolis had always treated them well and had been particularly kind to them when times were at their worst,

31 he and his men thanked them and urged them to extend the same friendship to his race in the future. They reached Jerusalem shortly before the feast of Weeks.

32 After Pentecost, as it is called, they marched against Gorgias, the general commanding Idumaea.

33 He came out at the head of three thousand infantry and four hundred cavalry;

34 in the course of the ensuing battle a few Jews lost their lives.

35 A man called Dositheus, a horseman of the Tubian contingent, a valiant man, overpowered Gorgias and, gripping him by the cloak, was forcibly dragging him along, intending to take the accursed man alive, but one of the Thracian cavalry, hurling himself on Dositheus, slashed his shoulder and Gorgias escaped to Marisa. 

36 Meanwhile, since Esdrias and his men had been fighting for a long time and were exhausted, Judas called on the Lord to show himself their ally and leader in battle.

37 Then, chanting the battle cry and hymns at the top of his voice in his ancestral tongue, by a surprise attack he routed Gorgias’ troops.

38 Judas then rallied his army and moved on to the town of Adullam where, as it was the seventh day of the week, they purified themselves according to custom and kept the Sabbath.

39 Next day, they came to find Judas (since the necessity was by now urgent) to have the bodies of the fallen taken up and laid to rest among their relatives in their ancestral tombs.

40 But when they found on each of the dead men, under their tunics, objects dedicated to the idols of Jamnia, which the Law prohibits to Jews, it became clear to everyone that this was why these men had lost their lives.

41 All then blessed the ways of the Lord, the upright judge who brings hidden things to light,

42 and gave themselves to prayer, begging that the sin committed might be completely forgiven. Next, the valiant Judas urged the soldiers to keep themselves free from all sin, having seen with their own eyes the effects of the sin of those who had fallen;

43 after this he took a collection from them individually, amounting to nearly two thousand drachmas, and sent it to Jerusalem to have a sacrifice for sin offered, an action altogether fine and noble, prompted by his belief in the resurrection.

44 For had he not expected the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead,

45 whereas if he had in view the splendid recompense reserved for those who make a pious end, the thought was holy and devout. Hence, he had this expiatory sacrifice offered for the dead, so that they might be released from their sin.

Wisdom 13

1 Yes, naturally stupid are all who are unaware of God, and who, from good things seen, have not been able to discover Him-who-is, or, by studying the works, have not recognised the Artificer.

2 Fire, however, or wind, or the swift air, the sphere of the stars, impetuous water, heaven’s lamps, are what they have held to be the gods who govern the world.

3 If, charmed by their beauty, they have taken these for gods, let them know how much the Master of these excels them, since he was the very source of beauty that created them.

4 And if they have been impressed by their power and energy, let them deduce from these how much mightier is he that has formed them,

5 since through the grandeur and beauty of the creatures we may, by analogy, contemplate their Author.

6 Small blame, however, attaches to them, for perhaps they go astray only in their search for God and their eagerness to find him;

7 familiar with his works, they investigate them and fall victim to appearances, seeing so much beauty.

8 But even so, they have no excuse:

9 if they are capable of acquiring enough knowledge to be able to investigate the world, how have they been so slow to find its Master?

10 But wretched are they, with their hopes set on dead things, who have given the title of gods to human artefacts, gold or silver, skilfully worked, figures of animals, or useless stone, carved by some hand long ago.

11 Take a woodcutter. He fells a suitable tree, neatly strips off the bark all over and then with admirable skill works the wood into an object useful in daily life.

12 The bits left over from his work he uses for cooking his food, then eats his fill.

13 There is still a good-for-nothing bit left over, a gnarled and knotted billet: he takes it and whittles it with the concentration of his leisure hours, he shapes it with the skill of experience, he gives it a human shape

14 or perhaps he makes it into some vile animal, smears it with ochre, paints its surface red, coats over all its blemishes.

15 He next makes a worthy home for it, lets it into the wall, fixes it with an iron clamp.

16 Thus he makes sure that it will not fall down — being well aware that it cannot help itself, since it is only an image, and needs to be helped.

17 And yet, if he wishes to pray for his goods, for his marriage, for his children, he does not blush to harangue this lifeless thing — for health, he invokes what is weak,

18 for life, he pleads with what is dead, for help, he goes begging to total inexperience, for a journey, what cannot even use its feet,

19 for profit, an undertaking, and success in pursuing his craft, he asks skill from something whose hands have no skill whatever.

Wisdom 14

1 Or someone else, taking ship to cross the wild waves, loudly invokes a piece of wood frailer than the vessel that bears him.

2 Agreed, the ship is the product of a craving for gain, its building embodies the wisdom of the shipwright;

3 but your providence, Father, is what steers it, you having opened a pathway even through the sea, and a safe way over the waves,

4 showing that you can save, whatever happens, so that, even without experience, someone may put to sea.

5 It is not your will that the works of your Wisdom should be sterile, so people entrust their lives to the smallest piece of wood, cross the waves on a raft, yet are kept safe and sound.

6 Why, in the beginning, when the proud giants were perishing, the hope of the world took refuge on a raft and, steered by your hand, preserved the seed of a new generation for the ages to come.

7 For blessed is the wood which serves the cause of uprightness

8 but accursed the man-made idol, yes, it and its maker, he for having made it, and it because, though perishable, it has been called god.

9 For God holds the godless and his godlessness in equal hatred;

10 both work and workman will alike be punished.

11 Hence even the idols of the nations will have a visitation since, in God’s creation, they have become an abomination, a scandal for human souls, a snare for the feet of the foolish.

12 The idea of making idols was the origin of fornication, their discovery corrupted life.

13 They did not exist at the beginning, they will not exist for ever;

14 human vanity brought them into the world, and a quick end is therefore reserved for them.

15 A father afflicted by untimely mourning has an image made of his child so soon carried off, and now pays divine honours to what yesterday was only a corpse, handing on mysteries and ceremonies to his people;

16 time passes, the custom hardens and is observed as law.

17 Rulers were the ones who ordered that statues should be worshipped: people who could not honour them in person, because they lived too far away, would have a portrait made of their distant countenance, to have an image that they could see of the king whom they honoured; meaning, by such zeal, to flatter the absent as if he were present.

18 Even people who did not know him were stimulated into spreading his cult by the artist’s enthusiasm;

19 for the latter, doubtless wishing to please his ruler, exerted all his skill to surpass the reality,

20 and the crowd, attracted by the beauty of the work, mistook for a god someone whom recently they had honoured as a man.

21 And this became a snare for life: that people, whether enslaved by misfortune or by tyranny, should have conferred the ineffable Name on sticks and stones.

22 It is not enough, however, for them to have such misconceptions about God; for, living in the fierce warfare of ignorance, they call these terrible evils peace.

23 With their child-murdering rites, their occult mysteries, or their frenzied orgies with outlandish customs,

24 they no longer retain any purity in their lives or their marriages, one treacherously murdering another or wronging him by adultery.

25 Everywhere a welter of blood and murder, theft and fraud, corruption, treachery, riot, perjury,

26 disturbance of decent people, forgetfulness of favours, pollution of souls, sins against nature, disorder in marriage, adultery and debauchery.

27 For the worship of idols with no name is the beginning, cause, and end of every evil.

28 For these people either carry their merrymaking to the point of frenzy, or they prophesy what is not true, or they live wicked lives, or they perjure themselves without hesitation;

29 since they put their trust in lifeless idols they do not reckon their false oaths can harm them.

30 But they will be justly punished for this double crime: for degrading the concept of God by adhering to idols; and for wickedly perjuring themselves in contempt for what is holy.

31 For it is not the power of the things by which they swear but the punishment reserved for sinners that always follows the offences of wicked people.

Proverbs 25:11-14

11 Like apples of gold inlaid with silver is a word that is aptly spoken.

12 A golden ring, an ornament of finest gold, is a wise rebuke to an attentive ear.

13 The coolness of snow in harvest time, such is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him: he revives the soul of his master.

14 Clouds and wind, but no rain: such is anyone whose promises are princely but never kept.


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