From a daily Mass homily.
We hear this morning a wrenching account of martyrdom in the second book of Maccabees. “Most admirable and worthy of everlasting remembrance was the mother, who saw her seven sons perish in a single day, yet bore it courageously because of her hope in the Lord” (2 Mc 7:20). The mother would not let her sons apostatize, but rather encouraged them to bravery.
The mother in Maccabees reminds one of Abraham Lincoln's letter to Mrs. Bixby written on November 21, 1864. This woman had lost five sons in the Civil War. After acknowledging that no words could console her, Lincoln concludes: “I pray that our heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”
Solemn pride. In a way, Mrs. Bixby was given a gift. She was the mother of sons, whose deaths contributed to the winning of the Civil War, to the freedom of millions of enslaved people, and ultimately to the preservation of a great nation. Same in the case of the mother from Maccabees. God chose her to sacrifice her sons for a noble cause—the preservation of the Jewish race and identity. That is she and Mrs. Bixby can take pride in their situations.
The call to make a sacrifice is a gift from God meant to further our holiness and that of the Church. It is not that God causes us to suffer. It is, rather, that he is involved in the painful situation. Our suffering has a purpose and God will apply our sacrifice to a glorious end.