Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary
One of the beautiful qualities of the just is their great concern for others. Today we hear the story of the old man, Eleazar. Some tried to convince him just to pretend to violate the Law so that he could save his life, but his response was that such pretense would lead the young astray. Eleazar had a great concern for the young who were just starting on the path which he had trod for many years. He also had great devotion to the Lord. “The Lord in his holy knowledge knows full well that, although I could have escaped death, I am not only enduring terrible pain in my body from this scourging, but also suffering it with joy in my soul because of my devotion to him.” (2 Mcb 6:30) The just man who has been trained to think of others can keep the eyes of his heart open to see God, God who loves and always remembers him. Thus keeping God ever in his sight, Eleazar could die with joy in his soul.
Such joy is costly, but the cost reveals its value. Zacchaeus promises to Jesus that he will give half of his possessions to the poor and repay four fold those whom he has exploited. All this so that he, too, may begin to trod the path of the Lord who “has come to seek and to save what was lost.” (Lk 19:10) Today, also, we celebrate with great gladness the feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231). St. Elizabeth despite great personal tragedy (her mother was murdered when she was only four, her father-in-law suffered from mental illness, her husband died after she had given birth to their third child at the age of 20), was amazingly devoted to others and to God. When her husband, Ludwig of Thuringia, was in Italy, a great famine swept over the kingdom, and Elizabeth at age nineteen took over the affairs of the nation and begin to relieve the needs of the people. She set up beds on the first floor of the castle for the sick, and fed 900 people each day. After the death of her husband, inspired by the early Franciscans, Elizabeth left her husband’s castle because she felt she could not longer eat luxuriously in good conscience. Instead, she took her dowry and gave one fourth of it away to the poor in one day. A little before she died (at the age of 24) Elizabeth was expelled from another family castle by relatives. Her response? She asked the Franciscans to offer up a Te Deum, a prayer of thanksgiving to God, because now she could live more simply like her Lord. Let us ask God to lead us to so care for others, and to so rely on Him.