Memorial of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, priest and martyr
(Ezekiel 2:8-3:4; Matthew 18:1-5.10.12-14)
Today the Church recalls a martyrdom whose valor parallels those of ancient times. Arrested by the Gestapo during World War II, Franciscan friar Maximilian Kolbe was sent to Auschwitz. Three months later, a fellow prisoner escaped and, according to the prison’s outrageous rule, ten innocent men were selected to be executed for the crime. Knowing one of the selected to be a young father, Fr. Kolbe offered himself as a replacement. The death sentence was executed with an injection of carbolic acid.
In today’s gospel Jesus speaks of the necessity of becoming like a child if one is to enter the Kingdom of heaven. Certainly liberality regarding personal sacrifice characterizes children. Much more than adults, children at least speak of their willingness to give all they have for the well-being of others. Maximilian Kolbe’s demonstration of this willingness well into middle age assures him of a place among the saints.
Today’s society presents interesting opportunities to demonstrate such heroism as Maximilian Kolbe’s. We may ask ourselves whether we should donate a kidney to a person whose life is in danger for lack of a functioning one. Although there is no obligation to do so, such a sacrifice certainly qualifies as another example of fulfilling Jesus’ call to become like little children.