The reading at Mass today was 2Maccabees 6:18-31. This is the story of the prominent scribe, Eleazar. He refused to break the Hebrew dietary laws. The punishment was death. Everyone was on his case to just eat the stuff anyway, or pretend to eat it. Eleazar was adamant. Not only did he refuse to eat the forbidden food, he eagerly went to the torturer and his death.
I'm conflicted about Eleazar's decision. I'm pretty sure I'd eat the stuff and then go to Confession. That's was the sacrament is for.
But Eleazar reasoned that breaking the holy sanctions went deeper than eating. He was setting a poor example.
At our age it would be unbecoming to make such a pretense; many young people
would think the ninety-year Eleazar had gone over to an alien religion. Should
I thus pretend for the sake of a brief moment of life, they would be led astray by
me, while I would bring shame and dishonor on my old age. Even if, for the
time being, avoid the punishment of men, I shall never, whether dead or alive,
escape the hands of the Almighty. Therefore, by manfully giving up my life
now, I will prove myself worthy of my old age, and I will leave to the young
a noble example of how to die willingly and generously for the revered and
In other words, Eleazar was worried about perception. Is it anyone's business? If he ate the food, then he told everyone that he was forced to eat it, wouldn't that excuse him?
For the rest of his life, he could penance for breaking the law. The rest of his life could be exemplary. Also, he would understand, have more empathy, compassion, and mercy upon people, now that he failed himself.
I don't know what I would do. Do you know what you would do?