The first reading today picks up on the real events that followed on the action of King Antiochus in placing a statue of Zeus on the altar of the temple in Jerusalem. Rather than be forced to offer worship to Zeus, many people fled to small towns. However, the soldiers of King Antiochus went from town to town, forcing every Jew to eat pork and offer sacrifice to Zeus.
When those enforcing soldiers came to the town of Modien they were met by a man from the tribe of Levi. The man Mattathias and his five sons, not only refused to sacrifice to the Greek gods, but when Mattathais saw a formerly devote Jew worshipping Zeus, he stepped forward and slew the man. (I always asked St. Paul’s Seventh Graders if killing that man was a sin. Was it?)
With that bold act of Mattathias, Jewish patriotism was aroused, and resistance to King Antiochus sprung up everywhere. Judas, the third son of Mattathis, led the revolt with such ferocity that he was nicknamed the Hammer, which in Hebrew was Maccabeus. The Second and Third Chapters of the Book of First Maccabees recounts the battles of Judas Maccabeus that in the end led to the rebels taking Jerusalem. There they prepared to purify the sanctuary that had been defiled by sacrifices of swine.