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It’s easy sometimes to dismiss some of the archaic practices of Old Testament times that are recounted in Scripture. Today, for example there is the story in the Second Book of Maccabees (2 MC 6:18-31) about Eleazar, one of the foremost scribes who chose to be tortured to death rather than eat pork, a meat forbidden by religious law. Some people told him to bring to the unlawful ritual “meat of his own providing, such as he could legitimately eat, and to pretend to be eating some of the meat of the sacrifice prescribed by the king” so as to escape the death penalty. Eleazar refused, saying he would remain “loyal to the holy laws given by God.”

Eating meat sacrificed to foreign gods seems in our day, perhaps, to be a ridiculous pretense for the death penalty but we might pause and consider how we might somehow be called to defend our faith with our life and whether we are strong enough to do so. That is not a new idea. Most of us began asking that question of ourselves and/or being asked it by our religion teachers in elementary school. (“If you were asked to reject God or your religion under pain of death, would you be able to remain faithful?”) It was easier to answer “YES!” as a child who was never in danger of death.

I still say an enthusiastic “YES” when I think about the question but am not so sure I am equal to the possibility. Perhaps I need to go joyfully toward all the events of my daily life – the beautiful and the difficult – welcoming everything with equal vigor – just in case there might come a day when something more challenging than I have yet encountered stares me in the face and requires my “Yes” in a way that draws me beyond what I can now imagine. What might that be I cannot say, but I can think about it in more realistic terms and maybe I should start right now…