17 June. Friday, Week 11
1st Reading: 2 Kings 11:1-4, 9-18, 20
Athaliah seized the throne by violence. Later she is executed, and the covenant is renewed
Now when Athaliah, Ahaziah’s mother, saw that her son was dead, she set about to destroy all the royal family. But Jehosheba, King Joram’s daughter, Ahaziah’s sister, took Joash son of Ahaziah, and stole him away from among the king’s children who were about to be killed; she put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Thus she hid him from Athaliah, so that he was not killed; he remained with her six years, hidden in the house of the Lord, while Athaliah reigned over the land.
But in the seventh year Jehoiada summoned the captains of the Carites and of the guards and had them come to him in the house of the Lord. He made a covenant with them and put them under oath in the house of the Lord; then he showed them the king’s son. The captains did according to all that the priest Jehoiada commanded; each brought his men who were to go off duty on the Sabbath, with those who were to come on duty on the Sabbath, and came to the priest Jehoiada. The priest delivered to the captains the spears and shields that had been King David’s, which were in the house of the Lord; the guards stood, every man with his weapons in his hand, from the south side of the house to the north side of the house, around the altar and the house, to guard the king on every side. Then he brought out the king’s son, put the crown on him, and gave him the covenant; they proclaimed him king, and anointed him; they clapped their hands and shouted, “Long live the king!”
When Athaliah heard the noise of the guard and of the people, she went into the house of the Lord to the people; when she looked, there was the king standing by the pillar, according to custom, with the captains and the trumpeters beside the king, and all the people of the land rejoicing and blowing trumpets. Athaliah tore her clothes and cried, “Treason! Treason!” Then the priest Jehoiada commanded the captains who were set over the army, “Bring her out between the ranks, and kill with the sword anyone who follows her.” For the priest said, “Let her not be killed in the house of the Lord.” So they laid hands on her; she went through the horses’ entrance to the king’s house, and there she was put to death.
Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and the king and people, that they should be the Lord’s people; also between the king and the people. Then all the people of the land went to the house of Baal, and tore it down; his altars and his images they broke in pieces, and they killed Mattan, the priest of Baal, before the altars. The priest posted guards over the house of the Lord. So all the people of the land rejoiced; and the city was quiet after Athaliah had been killed with the sword at the king’s house.
Gospel: Matthew 6:19-23
Not laying up earthly treasure where moths and rust corrode
Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
Beware of a violent woman!
A tragic situation is described in the first reading, from 2 Kings. Here is a woman driven by ambition to murder her own step-children in order to seize the throne in Jerusalem. She then attempts to secure her place by corrupting the morals of the people. If they become like her, they will welcome the changed opportunity for luxurious living, the sensuous fertility rites and sacred prostitution in the Baal temple she has built. Yet the innate goodness of the people wins the day, and seven years later the single royal son who escaped Athaliah’s slaughter is acclaimed as king. The high priest solemnizes a covenant between king and people, based on religious fidelity and popular justice. The house built upon ambitious boasting collapsed on Athaliah – an example of Jesus’ words that moths and rust corrode the strength and security of such false constructions.
Other words of Jesus may provide more practical advice. He advises us to have a “good eye,” filled with light and so able to see goodness and light in the actions and hearts of others. Rather than be annoyed by their faults and idiosyncrasies, our “good eye” ought to recognize the good side of them. We should commend them for their virtues, not condemn them for their vices, and not imitate them in bragging or boasting. But if we must brag, let it be about the grace of God that helps us in whatever are our weaknesses, failures or moments of rejection.
Martyrs who laid up treasure
John Fisher and Thomas More were both executed on the orders of King Henry VIII because of their refusal to recognize the king as head of the church in England. Both were men of courage and integrity. John Fischer had studied at Cambridge University before becoming Bishop of Rochester. He had a reputation as a pastoral bishop, and as a man of prayer and was a renowned preacher. Thomas More studied at Oxford University and was married with one son and three daughters. He became Chancellor of England. If they had gone along with what was happening in England at the time both men would have had bright futures. However, they remained true to their consciences and suffered the ultimate penalty. In the language of the gospel today they were more interested in storing up treasures for themselves in heaven than on earth. Their treasure was the Lord and the integrity of their relationship with the Lord within the community of the church under the leadership of the Pope. The gospel today says, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Their heart went with their treasure. These two martyrs encourage us to keep treasuring what is worth treasuring, not the status and recognition that the world has to offer, but the Lord and his gospel and the values that he lived and died by. [MH]