Wednesday, 14 August 2019 : 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 celebrate the feast of one of the most renowned saints of our modern day era, one whom we may be quite familiar with, the saint of the World War II era and the NAZI Holocaust, namely St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest and martyr, who gave his life for a very noble cause, imitating the very love which God has given to all of us His beloved ones.

St. Maximilian Kolbe was a conventual Franciscan friar and priest who worked as a missionary for many years in the East, in Japan and other places such as India, where he was known for his zeal and piety, his contributions to the Church and its development in the mission regions, by the establishment of the Militia Immaculatae or the Army of the Immaculate One in his early years as a friar and then priest, through his personal strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to counter the many works of the devil and the opponents of the Church.

St. Maximilian Kolbe served the Lord faithfully for many years and dedicated his life to bring about the greater glory of God and the salvation of His people. He returned to Poland where he was born in, and continued to serve the Church afterwards in the years just immediately preceding the Second World War. He stayed on when the forces of NAZI Germany overran the entire nation of Poland and beyond.

Eventually, his opposition to the NAZI regime and constant passive resistance through the publications and works his monastery produced led to him being arrested and brought to the infamous concentration camp of Auschwitz. Even there, he continued to serve the people who were in despair and suffering in the worst conditions imaginable in the concentration camp. As a priest and servant of God, he inspired many of the inmates in the camp to remain strong in their faith and in their hope.

And St. Maximilian Kolbe was especially remembered for his courageous and most selfless love, when he offered himself in exchange for another inmate who was about to be executed when an attempt in escaping was foiled. The faithful saint offered himself because the man was in despair over his family that he was to leave behind if he was to be executed. And thus, St. Maximilian Kolbe in fact followed in the example of Christ, in offering himself to suffer for the sake of others.

And through all of these, the good examples of St. Maximilian Kolbe, and the words of the Scripture we heard today, we are all reminded to be exemplary in our lives, living our lives with genuine and strong faith. In our first reading today, we heard the account from the Book of Deuteronomy in which Moses, the one whom God appointed to be the leader of His people Israel in order to rescue them from the tyranny of the Pharaoh and slavery in Egypt finally went to the end of his earthly life at Mount Nebo.

Moses was not able to enter the land promised by God to the children of Israel, although he was allowed to have a glance at the whole land before he died. It was because of the disobedience that Moses performed out of anger, when he did not do as the Lord commanded when the people pressed hard on him and complained against him and God. But regardless of that and besides that unfortunate occasion, Moses was truly a very faithful servant of God, much as St. Maximilian Kolbe had been.

Moses devoted his life to the Lord and tirelessly served God for many, many years, guiding and leading the people of Israel through to the right path, despite their constant bickering, disobedience and stubbornness in refusing to listen to God and His will. He persevered through all of the challenges and remained true to the very end, serving God with all of his heart and with all of his strength, and therefore, now counted as one of the great saints and elders of the faith.

All of us are reminded today therefore to walk in the footsteps of these holy predecessors of ours, Moses, the many other faithful and holy prophets, the holy Apostles, saints and martyrs of all the ages, and St. Maximilian Kolbe, the martyr of our more recent times. We are called to be true Christians in how we live our lives from now on, that just as those saints and martyrs have been faithful in theirs, and reflect the glory and love of God, we too may do the same with our lives.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord also reminds us that we all have been given responsibilities as members of the Church, the Body of the faithful people of God. In that passage, the Lord exhorted His disciples to take care of one another and pay attention to those who have erred in the practices and beliefs of their faith, and to bring them back to the Lord and to reconcile them with Him in love.

Are we able to what the Lord has commanded us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to do what our holy predecessors had done? Let us all ask for the intercession of St. Maximilian Kolbe and the holy saints of God, that through their prayers God may give us the strength and courage to live faithfully in His presence, from now on and till the end of time. Amen.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 18 : 15-20

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If your brother has sinned against you, go and point out the fault to him, when the two of you are alone; and if he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen to you, take with you one or two others, so that the case may be decided by the evidence of two or three witnesses.”

“And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembled Church. But if he does not listen to the Church, then regard him as a pagan, or a tax collector. I say to you : whatever you bind on earth, heaven will keep bound; and whatever you unbind on earth, heaven will keep unbound.”

“In like manner, I say to you, if, on earth, two of you agree in asking for anything, it will be granted to you by My heavenly Father; for where two or there are gathered in My Name, I am there, among them.”

Wednesday, 14 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 65 : 1-3a, 5 and 16-17

Shout with joy to God, all you on earth; sing to the glory of His Name; proclaim His glorious praise. Say to God, “How great are Your deeds!”

Come, and see God’s wonders; His deeds, awesome for humans. All you, who fear God, come, and listen; let me tell you what He has done. I cried aloud to Him, extolling Him with my tongue.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Deuteronomy 34 : 1-12

From the barren plain of Moab, Moses went up to Mount Nebo, to the summit of Pisgah, opposite Jericho. And YHVH showed him all the Land : from Gilead to Dan, the whole of Naphtali, the land of Ephraim, and of Manasseh, the whole land of Judah, as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, the Plains, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar.

And YHVH said to him : “This is the land about which I swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, promising it to their descendants. I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you shall not enter it.”

Moses, the servant of God, died there in the land of Moab, according to the will of YHVH. They buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but to this very day, no one knows where his tomb is. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died. He did not lose his vigour and his eyes still saw clearly.

The children of Israel mourned for him in the plains of Moab for thirty days. But Joshua, son of Nun, was full of the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands upon him. The children of Israel obeyed him and did as YHVH had commanded Moses.

No prophet like Moses has appeared again. YHVH conversed with him face to face. What signs and wonders he worked in Egypt against Pharaoh, against his people and all his land! He displayed great power and awesome might in view of all Israel!

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.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 18 : 1-5, 10, 12-14

At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child, set the child in the midst of the disciples, and said, “I assure you, that, unless you change, and become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble, like this child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever receives such a child, in My Name, receives Me.”

“See that you do not despise any of these little ones; for I tell you, their Angels in heaven continually see the face of My heavenly Father. What do you think of this? If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them strays, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside, and go to look for the stray one? And I tell you, when he finally finds it, he is more pleased about it, than about the ninety-nine that did not go astray.”

“It is the same with your Father in heaven. Your Father in heaven does not want even one of these little ones to perish.”

Tuesday, 14 August 2018 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 118 : 14, 24, 72, 103, 111, 131

I delight in following Your laws, more so than in all riches.

Your laws are my delight, my counsellors who uphold me.

Your law is more precious to me than heaps of silver and gold.

How sweet are Your promises to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Your statutes are my heritage forever, they are the joy of my heart.

I gasp in ardent yearning for Your commandments that I love.