I will prove myself worthy of my old age, and I will leave to the young an example of how to die willingly and generously for the revered and holy law. II Maccabees 6:28
Eleazar was a very old Jewish man who was given the choice of eating pork against the teachings of his sacred faith or be killed. He could have saved his life by “going along.” His friends even tried to help him devise a scheme where he merely “appeared” to eat pork. He made up his mind to remain loyal to the holy laws of God.
His reasons are worth quoting directly. “At our age it would be unbecoming to make such a pretense; many young men would think the 90-year old Eleazar had gone over to an alien religion. Should I thus dissimulate for the sake of a brief moment of life, they would be led astray by me, while I bring shame and dishonor on my old age.
“Even if for the time being, I avoid the punishment of men, I shall never, whether alive or dead, 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 holy laws.” (II Maccabees 6:24-28)
Today I want to offer an encouraging word to all men and women, my age and older as regards our “legacies,” the examples we set and leave behind for the young. For many of you, it is for your children and grandchildren. For me, it is my 20 nieces and nephews, as well as the seminarians and college students where I do my ministry.
I often ask myself these days, “What will my many nieces, nephews, seminarians and college students remember about me? Have I been kind, encouraging, generous, magnanimous and affirming toward them? Will they remember me as a credible example of fidelity and practicing what I have preached?” At this point, I can honestly say that I am really trying!