"When the king heard this news, he was struck with fear and very much shaken. Sick with grief because his designs had failed, he took to his bed. There he remained many days, overwhelmed with sorrow, for he knew he was going to die." I Mc 6: 8-10
The two books of Maccabees recount the success of the Jewish people in defending their land and people, but only if they worship the one God and live according to the law. Violent and graphic, the books of Maccabees are not easy to read because they force us to think about and reflect on our own violence especially towards those we perceive as vulnerable.
Today's reading is about King Antiochus who recognizes the foolishness of the violent path his life has taken, but only after he has failed to conquer those he perceived as weak. Realizing that his own life was near an end, and full of anxiety, he goes to bed knowing that sooner rather than later someone more violent than he will come to kill him. In fact, however, his spirit has already died because he has no hope for transformation or reconciliation.
For Christians hope can never die because Christ is always waiting and anxious for us to return to a path of compassion and justice. Though not all Christians feel called to an intentional life of non violence, it is a real option for some, and one to which many of our contemporaries have given their lives. One group with which I have been familiar for many years, The Institute for Peace and Justice, is worth exploring.
I would encourage families especially to look a the Family Pledge of Non Violence as a conversation starter and possible commitment. If we can find a way as families to begin a life of non violence in our homes and communities, we can make a real difference in the world. Though difficult to live out, especially in a world and culture as competitive as ours, non violence can be a leaven in our families and neighborhoods. When our friends and relatives know that we are working to let go of the need to always be right for the sake of being in peaceful relationships with one another, they might see themselves in a different light and begin to work towards letting go of those memories, attitudes and habits that separate them from their authentic selves.
Today, as Thanksgiving nears, take a moment to pray for those who are separated from their families and friends because of unresolved conflicts.