Death of Judas Maccabee
Judas cleverly negotiated a treaty of alliance with Rome that recognized Judea as an independent state. For the first time since before the Babylonian exile, the Jews had their own sovereign nation. Demetrius feared a Rome-supported Judea might induce another of his inherited enemies, Egypt, to join the alliance and invade his empire through Judea. Basing his actions on reports that the Maccabean army was disbanding, Demetrius dispatched a 24,000-man expedition in the spring of 160 bc. Sure enough, Judas was unable to mobilize more than 3,000 troops. Joining battle at Elasa, about six miles east of Beth Horon, the armies clashed briefly before the Jewish warriors, demoralized by the eight-to-one odds, broke and fled, leaving their peerless commander with just 800 valiant veterans. Leading his small band in a desperate charge on the enemy’s right flank, Judas killed a great number of Seleucids but failed in the crucial objective of killing their commander, General Bacchides. Instead, Judas and his little group of loyalists were wiped out. It had taken the Syrians far too long, but in Bacchides they finally found a leader capable of concocting viable strategy and instilling needed flexibility into Syrian formations. Considering the overpowering numerical advantage the Syrians enjoyed in that April clash, it could be said the Maccabees were drawn into a trap even if they realized it from the beginning, for they could not afford to allow this pagan multitude to rampage unchecked throughout Judea. Confronting it when they did, before they had time to assemble sufficient soldiers, was unavoidable—and fatal.
If we look at the modern world, we see nothing but hostility toward the Faith. In the Middle East, Christians are being martyred in the most brutal way. Every day brings a new threat. Persecution is open and the choice is clear: Serve Christ or die. To live and embrace the Faith in such circumstances requires a great deal of holy fearlessness.
Even in the “civilized” West, persecution is no less present, albeit in a different and more subtle form. We are asked by the powers that be to acquiesce, to compromise on the most fundamental moral issues that exist