Tuesday, 14 August 2018 : 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, in today’s Scripture readings the Lord spoke to the prophet Ezekiel in our first reading, giving him a scroll containing His words to the people, and asking him to eat the scroll, tasting sweet as honey and then commanding him to go forth and tell His words, as well as His will to the people of Israel. Thus, Ezekiel went on and preached God’s words to His people in exile in Babylon.

And this is related to what we heard in today’s Gospel reading, taken from Gospel according to St. Matthew. The Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples when they were likely bickering among themselves about who would be greater than the other, and who was the greatest in the eyes of the Lord. This was not mentioned specifically in today’s Gospel, but a similar, likely to be the same event, was mentioned in greater detail in another Gospel account.

The Lord rebuked them all by bringing a child to Himself and saying to them, that unless they had faith like that of a child, they would have no part in Him and would not be worthy of Him. What He meant was that, as a child who came to Him and believed in Him, the faith that the child has was purer and greater than that of the disciples, who bickered and fought among themselves for influence and worldly power.

All of us who have seen a child before and observed how they behaved can witness how their innocence is pure and how they are still very impressionable and mouldable. If they come to believe in something at that age, they believe wholeheartedly and without reservation, unlike those who are of the older ages. Once we reach a certain age, our minds and thinking begin to be influenced by many factors and considerations in life, ever present in this world.

And therefore, what is the significance of today’s Scripture readings, brothers and sisters in Christ? First of all, as Christians, all of us must be pure in our faith and in our desire to love God. We must follow what the Lord had said, that each one of those who follow Him must have faith like that of a child, and that means, our faith must be truly something that is genuine and sincere, coming from our heart, desiring to be with God and to love Him at all times.

We should not have a kind of conditional love towards God, loving Him just because we want power, convenience, prestige, and all the things many of us often desire in life. All of these are in fact obstacles for us in our journey of faith towards God, and are hindrances that prevent us from truly being able to follow God’s will in our daily lives. We must be sincere and true in our commitment to God, at all times.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, then, secondly, today’s Scripture readings also pointed out our obligations as Christians, to be good guides to one another in the matter of faith. In the first reading, God told the prophet Ezekiel to go to the exiled people of Israel in Babylon, to speak to them all that He would speak to them through him, and he obeyed despite the challenges he had to encounter.

And in the Gospel passage, the Lord Jesus warned the disciples sternly that they should not misguide the young ones in faith, and this shows that all of us have the responsibility to keep one another in good faith in the Lord, and to live our lives with good adherence to our faith, so that in everything we say and do, we will not create any scandal or things that lead others to lose their faith and belief in God.

Instead, we must do what we can, to be exemplary in faith and in life, and to devote ourselves in all that we do, that we may keep one another in good faith, and bring even more souls to God’s love and saving grace. This is our responsibility and duty as Christians towards our fellow brethren. And perhaps we should follow the examples shown by the renowned saint, St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose feast day we celebrate today.

St. Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish Franciscan friar, priest and missionary, who spent years in mission in Japan and other places, preaching the faith and being actively involved in evangelising works through the Militia Immaculatae organisation, before returning to Poland during the time just before the Second World War due to his poor health.

Despite his partial German ancestry and ability to claim privilege as a German during the time of the occupation of Poland by NAZI Germany, St. Maximilian Kolbe refused to do so, and continued doing his evangelising works until he was arrested and his printing and publishing house in the monastery was forced to close down together with the monastery itself. St. Maximilian Kolbe was imprisoned and eventually brought to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp.

In Auschwitz, St. Maximilian Kolbe continued to minister to the people who were suffering grievously, lifting up their spirits by his inspirational sermons and by his continued celebration of the Holy Mass. And when some people ran away from the camp and the prison guards selected some men to be killed as a punishment, St. Maximilian Kolbe volunteered to take the place of one of the men who exclaimed with fear as he had wife and children.

Thus, St. Maximilian Kolbe gave his life in exchange for another, and the man was spared from death. St. Maximilian Kolbe willingly embraced death, knowing that by doing so he had given a new hope to the man who was so concerned that he would never see his loved ones again. St. Maximilian Kolbe was thus a holy martyr of the faith and the Church, died defending his faith to the very end against the wicked and unjust ways of the world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Maximilian Kolbe has indeed acted with such great love, that he has imitated the love which Christ has for us so well, sparing nothing for the sake of the loved ones, even with the price of one’s own life. Now, are we able to follow in the footsteps of these holy martyrs and followers of God? Let us all therefore be good guides of faith for one another, by imitating the love that Christ has for us, and which St. Maximilian Kolbe has shown, that we may be ever more committed to live our lives with faith and devotion to God.

Let us all show good examples for our fellow brethren in faith, and help each other to find our way to the Lord, having faith pure as children’s faith, and placing the Lord as the very centre and heart of our daily lives and activities. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

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