From the Matins readings in yesterday’s Divine Office, here is the faith-filled, courageous, and unsentimental exhortation of an unnamed Jewish mother1 to her seven sons to die as martyrs. So much to learn and admire here! To me, this woman, who also died a martyr, epitomizes the command of Saint Paul: “Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good” (Rom. 12:21).
And she bravely exhorted every one of them in her own language, being filled with wisdom: and joining a man’s heart to a woman’s thought, She said to them: I know not how you were formed in my womb: for I neither gave you breath, nor soul, nor life, neither did I frame the limbs of every one of you. But the Creator of the world, that formed the nativity of man, and that found out the origin of all, he will restore to you again in his mercy, both breath and life, as now you despise yourselves for the sake of his laws. —2 Machabees 7:21-23
Further on, after six of her seven brave sons have been cruelly tormented and murdered in her sight, she addresses these words to her youngest son, who himself goes to martyrdom:
So bending herself towards him, mocking the cruel tyrant, she said in her own language: My son, have pity upon me, that bore thee nine months in my womb, and gave thee suck three years, and nourished thee, and brought thee up unto this age. I beseech thee, my son, look upon heaven and earth, and all that is in them: and consider that God made them out of nothing, and mankind also: So thou shalt not fear this tormentor, but being made a worthy partner with thy brethren, receive death, that in that mercy I may receive thee again with thy brethren. —2 Machabees 7:27-29