Words on the Word
St Maximilian Kolbe
Fr Maximilian Kolbe was a man of prodigious activity. He preached and counselled and wrote and travelled incessantly. It seems he was impervious to fatigue. But we tend not to recall any of these things. What we remember is his death in Auschwitz on 14 August 1941, after a fortnight’s confinement, deprived of food and drink. We remember that he died in this terrible way having given his life in exchange for another’s. Rightly we recognise him as an icon of Christ. ‘No one has greater love than one who lays down his life for his friends.’
Kolbe’s death eclipses his life. His life, indeed, seems like a build-up to his sacrificial death. That is something to reflect on with regard to our own Christian lives. What task may the Lord have in store for you and me? How would we respond in an extreme situation? Would we, like Maximilian, be living incarnations of the Gospel? These questions are not academic. Let us presume to put ourselves, say, into the shoes of one of our Christian brothers and sisters driven out of Mosul by the terrorist army of ISIS. They are ordinary people like you and me. They have been expelled, in their thousands, on pain of death. They have had to leave everything behind: homes, clothes, family photos, their parents’ graves. If we, like them, were interned in some makeshift camp in Erbil, would we be concerned for the needs of others? Would we have words of consolation to give, welling up from a living faith in Christ? Would we be fervent in prayer? Would we share what bread we had with people even hungrier than us? Or not?
St Maximilian challenges us to ask these hard questions, to examine our daily lives and habits. One thing is certain: we shall never be ready for some great, decisive act of love if we have not first learnt, on a daily basis, to love in little ways, serving others, putting them first, pouring out our life for them, forgetting ourselves. That is when Christ will become real to us—and perhaps, through us, to others.