Memorial of Saint Maxilimilian Kolbe, priest and martyr
(Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Matthew 18:15-20)
Like the great Moses, St. Maximilian Kolbe stands as person of great accomplishments. He was an intellectual, a foreign missionary, and a martyr. Over time he has been criticized for his zeal. However, his defenders have adequately shown that his critique of Freemasonry as being inspired by anti-Semitism is exaggerated. Maximilian harbored 2,000 Jews in the monastery he founded during the Nazi persecution. Furthermore, his polemic was not against the Jewish faith or the Jewish people but the leaders of the Zionist movement.
Kolbe died offering his life as a sacrifice to God for others. Imprisoned at Auschwitz, he volunteered himself in place of another inmate. The Nazis were seeking retribution for a prisoner’s escape and then arbitrarily chose ten men to be starved. Kolbe replaced one of the men who had a family to care for.
In today’s gospel Jesus exhorts his disciples to forgive one another. He seems to imply that the one who gave offense should ask for forgiveness. If he or she does not, Jesus would have disciples pray for the offender out of love. In this way they will be disposed to forgive as is their duty. Maximilian Kolbe’s self-sacrifice in love indicates a supreme desire to reconcile with those he criticized. We do not have to doubt his sanctity.