Saturday, 14 August 2021 : 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, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture all of us are called to come to the Lord with faith, and dedicate ourselves to Him to the best of our abilities, as we ought to put our trust and faith in Him, and commit ourselves wholeheartedly to His cause, as He has made it clear through the Scripture readings we have received this day. The Lord wants to remind us that He has always been with us and been committed to the Covenant He has made with each and every one of us, and we should therefore commit ourselves to Him in the same way too.

In our first reading today, we heard of the continuation of Joshua’s exhortation to all the Israelites and their representatives, for them to remain faithful to God and to commit themselves to His cause, as His chosen people and as a people whom God had blessed. Joshua was at the end of his life, and knowing this fact, he gathered all the Israelites to remind all of them, especially those who had not seen firsthand the great wonders that God had done in liberating them from the hands of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, and those who had not seen the love and compassion by which God cared for His people during their journey in the desert for forty years.

That is because those who have not seen the Lord and His deeds might not know Him and they might then be persuaded to abandon Him and reject Him for other idols and gods. Even their forefathers who had witnessed the Lord’s might and power firsthand had repeatedly disobeyed Him and abandoned Him, as they were tempted and swayed by their desires and their physical demands and needs. They were pulled away by their sins, and many fell into rebellion against God by that means.

Many among those descendants, including the same ones we have heard in our first reading today as those who swore and promised to be faithful to God, also fell into disobedience and sin against God. They promised that they would obey the Lord and follow Him, and still they fell. Why is that so? Again it was because of the temptations of worldly desires that are so difficult to overcome and which are the source of so many disobedience attitudes against God.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples as they were annoyed when there were many children who came seeking the Lord Jesus, as they were pushing those children away from Him. He told them to let the children to come to Him, and reminding them that those who welcome the children will also welcome Him into their midst. If they reject the children, then that means, they also reject Him.

Why is it important that we take note of the Lord’s love and welcome for the children to come to Him? That is because we have to take note that the faith and love that a child has for the Lord is truly genuine and strong, and not burdened by the trap of human desires and by the temptations of worldly glory, fame or any other things that usually kept us all apart from God. Their love and dedication are pure, as a child’s mind and heart are still pure and unburdened by emotions or worldly things, unlike that of us.

That is why we should also seek to be faithful to the Lord in the manner of the children, to love Him sincerely and wholeheartedly as we should, that we may indeed grow ever closer to Him as much as possible. This is what we should aspire to do, and what we are all called to be, as good and faithful Christians in all things, to love God above all else, and to be loving and selfless towards our fellow brothers and sisters, our neighbours and even strangers we encounter in life.

Today, we should therefore seek to follow the examples of the famous St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose feast we are celebrating this very day. He was a martyr of the faith and the upright and devout servant of God who passed on just less than a century ago, during the harsh times of the Second World War, and as part of the NAZI genocide and crime against humanity. He was a Polish priest, renowned for his missionary activities and steadfast faith, who went on mission for many years to the Far East, in Japan and other parts of the world.

St. Maximilian Kolbe was also remembered for establishing the publication and evangelisation movement, ‘Militia of the Immaculata’, which gained a large following and served to remind the people of God to turn towards God and to reach out to their fellow brethren, spreading the words of God by dedication through faith to God, in personal holiness and commitment in actions, and by devotion to the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, which St. Maximilian Kolbe had a strong devotion for.

And then, later on, as he returned to Poland, and the Second World War began, St. Maximilian Kolbe still did his best to minister to the people of God even through the many challenges and sufferings of war. As the Church and his publications were critical of the crimes and the terrors caused by the NAZI regime, St. Maximilian Kolbe was eventually arrested and put into prison, and eventually ended up in the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp.

In the occasion that made him well remembered, St. Maximilian Kolbe offered himself in exchange of a man who was to be executed for having attempted to escape from Auschwitz and failed. He begged the camp commandant, and was allowed to take over the man’s position, when he saw how the man was deeply sorrowful and mentioned how he had a family, a wife and a son. St. Maximilian Kolbe voluntarily gave himself to be executed, and while waiting for the execution, he was remembered to have encouraged his fellow inmates even in the depressing situation in the concentration camp.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples set by St. Maximilian Kolbe should inspire all of us to be more genuine in our faith and commitment towards the Lord, and to dedicate our love and effort towards one another, especially the less fortunate and those who suffer. While we ourselves may be suffering, let us also remember that others may be suffering even more than us, and may not be as fortunate as us. That is why all of us should imitate the good examples of our holy predecessor and the many other good inspirations, that we too may be like them in our lives and actions.

May God be with us all, and may He strengthen each and every one of us with the resolve and conviction to live our lives as virtuous Christians, wholly committed in all things to serve Him and to be exemplary in our faith, to all men and to the whole world. May God bless us all in our endeavours, now and always. Amen.

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