Friday, 14 August 2020 : 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 we are all reminded that we need to listen to God and put our trust in Him, and appreciate the wonderful love with which He has blessed us all these while, loving us so tenderly and generously that despite our many infidelities, our many betrayals and disobedience against Him, He still looks out for us and cares for us, and still wants us all to walk down the right path in life.

In our first reading today, all of us heard from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel in which the Lord spoke at length about how His people had sinned greatly against Him, how they had disobeyed Him and sold themselves to the pagan idols and gods, worshipping those abominations instead of worshipping the true God, how they had persecuted His prophets and all those whom He had sent to them to remind them and call them to return to Him.

And yet, despite all of these, the Lord said through Ezekiel, that even in their most vulnerable moments, when they were completely troubled, humiliated and naked, He came by their side, clothed them and took care of them, just as how He had patiently watched over them for all those years without fail. And yet again, although God had blessed His people such and made them wonderful, but they chose to squander their blessings and beauty to commit sin against God and all sorts of evil.

Through all of these we can see how God had been so caring and patient towards us that He is willing to endure all these nonsense from us, and still provide for us and give us what we need. He will always uphold the Covenant that He has established with us as He has promised and nothing can separate us from the love and mercy of God, that is except our own stubborn rejection of His love and mercy, by which we closed ourselves from God and continued to fall deeper and deeper into sin.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord spoke to His disciples on the matter of divorce, as some among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were asking Him on the matter of divorce and what ought to be done as the Law of God handed down to Moses did allow for divorce to be done. And then the Lord immediately revealed how the allowance for the divorce was made only because the people was so stubborn in their ways and in refusing to follow the Lord’s ways, and some concessions were probably made to prevent the people from falling even further into sin.

But the Lord showed how God never intended for the people to treat their lives and actions into mere formality, as He wants all of them to love and to be true to their faith in whatever that He has called them to. This means that all of us are called to lead a God-centred life in our respective calling and way of life, just as He presented in today’s Gospel passage, in calling on all of us to do what the Lord has called us to do in our lives, in our various callings and vocations in life.

The Lord said how there are those who are destined for married life, while others were destined for a life of virginity and singlehood, dedicated to God, and all of these callings and vocations of life are all noble and good in their own accord, as how the Lord meant for them to be. What matters is that we love God, and devote ourselves to Him by being righteous, good and virtuous in life, and today, we have a perfect inspiration on how to do this, through the examples set by St. Maximilian Kolbe, a renowned holy saint and martyr of the faith.

St. Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish priest and member of the Conventual Franciscans, who was chiefly remembered for his death in the concentration camp under the NAZI Germany tyranny. He was a longtime missionary, working for many years in distant lands after he joined the Franciscans and became a priest. He worked in Japan for quite a few years, evangelising and spreading the word of God, continuing the efforts he had begun when he was in Poland with the organisation Maria Immaculata, aimed at opposing the enemies of the Church and calling them to repentance through faith.

St. Maximilian Kolbe established monasteries in Japan and also in India during his missionary years, before he returned to Poland not long before the outbreak of the Second World War which would come to engulf not just Poland but the entirety of Europe and much of the world. As we know today, this war surpassed all others in ferocity and brutality, as millions and many more perished from many brutal actions of states and all those who disregarded the sanctity of human life and existence.

Although St. Maximilian Kolbe himself had German ancestry, which could have earned him the right of equal treatment with the citizens of NAZI Germany at the time, he refused to cooperate with the oppressors and those who brutally treated and killed many, and worked to hide and provide shelter to many of those who were oppressed, especially the Jews who were unable to escape, and were prime targets in the ethnic cleansing and genocide efforts of the NAZIs.

This led to the eventual forced closure of the monastery in which St. Maximilian Kolbe operated, together with some other friars, he was arrested and put into prison for the secret anti-German activities they carried out in defending the dignity of human life and also their opposition to war and the German actions. He was then transferred to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp, and there, he continued to minister to the people imprisoned there in the camp as a priest, despite the harassments and humiliations he had to endure daily.

And when a prisoner managed to escape from the concentration camp, the Germans forced ten people to be punished by starving to death to deter further attempts at escape. A Polish man who was selected cried out ‘My wife! My children!’, knowing that he was about to die, only for St. Maximilian Kolbe to step in and offered himself in exchange for the man. St. Maximilian Kolbe chose freely to die, in his love for his fellow brother, who was grieving over not being able to see his family anymore, and thus, died in martyrdom, a martyr of justice and faith, a martyr of love and mercy.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Maximilian Kolbe has shown us all what true Christian love and true Christian faith are all about. He showed us the same love that God has shown us, one that is pure, genuine and selfless, the love with which He has cared for us, provided for us and being patient with us all despite our infidelities and lack of faith. Are we able to love God with the same love and dedication? Are we able to love one another in the same way too?

These are the questions that we really should ask ourselves as we evaluate our direction in life, in our approach towards righteousness and in distancing ourselves from our past sinfulness and all the things that had brought us into sin. Let us all be inspired by the faith and love showed by St. Maximilian Kolbe and strive hard to be true and faithful disciples of the Lord, filled with love for God, first and foremost, and for our fellow brothers and sisters. May God be with us all and bless us, now and always. Amen.

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