Monday, 14 August 2017 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day first listened to the words of God, telling us in the first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy, that all of the people of God ought to believe in the Lord wholeheartedly and obey Him in all of His Laws. That is because He is truly good, and His ways are righteousness and justice. He is the source of all good in this world, and everyone who follows the Lord should live in accordance with His will.

Then, all of us heard about the Gospel passage today, from the Gospel of St. Matthew, in which the disciple of Jesus, St. Peter was asked by the temple tax collectors on whether his Master paid the temple tax or not. Then Jesus told him that those who are the sons and daughters of the kings of the earth, namely the lords and royalties of the worldly kingdoms do not pay taxes, but instead, the strangers and aliens that live in those kingdoms.

But at the same time, He also told St. Peter to obey the laws of the earth, the laws of the worldly kings and rulers, by asking him to obtain a gold coin miraculously from a fish he caught at the lake. Then He asked St. Peter to pay that gold coin as the due for Him and His disciples to the temple tax collectors. This resonates with what the Lord also said in another occasion in the Gospels, namely when He said, "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God."

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that as good Christians, all of us must first of all of course be obedient to God and follow all His laws and precepts without exceptions. But at the same time, we must also be good citizens and members of the community. While the Lord did mention that the ways of this world are often contrary to His ways, it does not mean that we should oppose each and every works of the states and countries we belong to in this world.

Rather, as long as the actions and the works of the states and countries we belong to are just and righteous, and working for the good of the common people and everyone, then by all means all of us Christians must be obedient and active in our participation in the world community and amongst our neighbours in our societies as well. However, having said that, we must also be vigilant lest what the world demands from us has become something that departed from righteousness and justice, as in this world, states and countries can indeed become corrupted by the power and the wickedness found in this world.

This is why, all the more that each and every one of us as Christians must not be lukewarm or passive in our faith life, but instead we must be truly devoted and be active in our faith, or else that is when we will end up being swayed away from the path of the Lord's righteousness and justice, into the path of selfishness, wickedness and injustice.

That also means that as Christians, all of us must stand up for the sake of justice. We must defend the rights of the poor and the weak, be loving and compassionate in our dealings to each other, showing care and concern for those who are sorrowful and suffering. And we must be true followers of Christ in all things we say and do, in the footsteps of the saints and martyrs who have predeceased us and gone before us.

Particularly, on this day, what we have heard in the Scripture passage is very apt, as today we mark the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, the famous saint and martyr of the Holocaust during the Second World War. St. Maximilian Kolbe was a devout and committed Polish missionary and priest, who worked hard among the people to spread the faith and strong devotion to the Lord and His blessed mother Mary.

He went to many places as a missionary, spreading the faith to the people in faraway places. His commitment and devotion won him many converts who followed the faith because of his preachings among them. But, his most renowned act came about at the time of the Second World War, when the NAZI German government invaded most of Europe, conquering most of Europe and bringing many people, especially the Jews into the terrible concentration camps.

Surely we have heard the great sufferings that those people have endured in those concentration camps, especially in Auschwitz concentration camp, where the worst atrocities happened. It was one of the worst displays of worldly wickedness, evil and entirely selfish desire of mankind, their pride and ambition, arrogance and hatred, in the genocide that had happened in those places.

Yet, the actions of St. Maximilian Kolbe became a great light that become an inspiration to many others in the midst of the great darkness. He was arrested and eventually ended up in the Auschwitz concentration camp as his monastery was closed down due to its publications standing up faithfully for the Lord, speaking out against the great atrocities of the NAZI Germany.

At a place where death awaited people living there daily, St. Maximilian Kolbe helped to encourage many of the prisoners through his preachings and exemplary actions among them. However, his greatest act lies in the moment when he offered himself in exchange of another prisoner who was condemned to death due to the escape of some prisoners. He offered his own life willingly to save his fellow inmate, who was crying out for his family.

And thus it was how St. Maximilian Kolbe showed the love of Christ, in its perfect and ultimate form, in obeying with complete faith, the law and the will of God, over that of his obligations to any worldly rulers and powers. He gave up his own life as the sign of the love of God, which as the Lord Jesus Himself said, that there is no greater love than for someone to give up his life for a friend.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples of St. Maximilian Kolbe and his commitment to the Lord should become our inspiration to live our faith ever more devoutly, in true commitment and with sincerity, to seek out righteousness and justice through our actions and deeds, and by standing up for our faith, for the goodness that God had taught us to do in our lives, and by the selfless giving of ourselves.

Let us thus live righteously from now on, remembering always the examples of the holy saints, men and women who have walked before us in faith. Let us emulate their actions and examples in our own living and actions, and may God bless us all in our endeavours, so that through us, His Name will ever be glorified, and we will always be able to live according to His will. Amen.

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