The second book of Maccabees tells us about Eleazar, the scribe, a Jewish man of advanced age who was forced by his pagan enemies either to eat non-Kosher food or to be tortured to death. When they saw that he preferred death and torture, and when they saw that many young people looked up to him for an example, they offered him another option: to eat food that appeared to be non-Kosher, but which really was, in fact, Kosher, thereby both saving his life and keeping God’s commandments. Ah, but even this the great old man refused to do. So they tortured him to death. Before he died he said “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 Macc 6:30) namely, to God.
The great old man was noble, honest and devout: an admirable combination. And although most of us respect him, as we read his story, and many of us feel an urge to imitate him to some degree, chances are we have a long way to go before we reach his level of devotion. Can we even bear the suffering of a trip down the road, getting stuck in traffic and seeing unfair and unsafe driving maneuvers? Can we bear the suffering of an unkind word? Can we bear the suffering of our own illnesses and inadequacies? Where is the joy in our soul? Where is our devotion? Perhaps we no longer care what God is, or what God is doing for each one of us. Perhaps we ought to be more mindful of these things.