There were seven brothers who were arrested with their mother. The king tried to force them to taste pig’s flesh, which the Law forbids, by torturing them with whips and scourges.
One of them, acting as spokesman for the others, said, ‘What are you trying to find out from us? We are prepared to die rather than break the laws of our ancestors.’
With his last breath the second brother exclaimed, ‘Inhuman fiend, you may discharge us from this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up, since it is for his laws that we die, to live again for ever.’
After him, they amused themselves with the third, who on being asked for his tongue promptly thrust it out and boldly held out his hands, with these honourable words, ‘It was heaven that gave me these limbs; for the sake of his laws I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again.’ The king and his attendants were astounded at the young man’s courage and his utter indifference to suffering.
When this one was dead they subjected the fourth to the same savage torture. When he neared his end he cried, ‘Ours is the better choice, to meet death at men’s hands, yet relying on God’s promise that we shall be raised up by him; whereas for you there can be no resurrection, no new life.’
2 Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14
Again and again in our day we are confronted racist violence against individuals; disrespect for law in society more broadly; crassness in ‘political’ discourse and political opportunism without regard for the health of the body politic.
To stand against this requires courage. And not only when at such an extreme as described above. If we buy newspapers that peddle prejudice and hate; if we say nothing when others treat truth or moral values with contempt; or when prejudice and bile are put in their place – then we are complicit, guilty by association.
The Gospel calls us to speak out for truth and to defend virtue. It calls on us to love our neighbour. There’s no let-out clause.
The Kingdom of God is near at hand, taught Jesus. Human history reminds us that so is hell.
Detail of Victims to the Totalitarian Regime by Ye. I. Chubarov, Park Arts Muzeun, Moscow. (c) 2015, Allen Morris