Daily Reflection
August 14th, 2000
Deb Fortina
Academic Affairs
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Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe, priest and martyr - Memorial 
Ezekiel 1:2-5, 24-28
Psalms 148:1-2, 11-14
Matthew 17:22-27

Ezekiel 1:2-5,24-28  The vision of the chariot of Yahweh “…I saw a brilliance like amber, like fire, radiating from what appeared to be the waist upwards; and from what appeared to be the waist downwards, I saw what looked like fire, giving a brilliant light all round…  I looked and fell to the ground, and I heard the voice of someone speaking to me.”

Psalm 148: 1-2,11-14  Cosmic hymn of praise  “…Let them praise the name of Yahweh, for his name alone is sublime, his splendour transcends earth and heaven…”

Matthew 17:22-27  Second Prophecy of the Passion and the temple tax paid by Jesus and Peter  “…Well then, the sons are exempt.  However, so that we shall not be the downfall of others, go to the lake and cast a hook; take the first fish that rises, open its mouth and there you will find a shekel; take it and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

Today we honor Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe, RM, who on this day, 59 years ago was martyred by the Nazis at Auschwitz located near Oswiecim in southern Poland.  He was captured in February of 1941, sent to Auschwitz in May and was killed on August 14th of that same year.  He had offered the guards his life in exchange for freeing 1 of the 10 men randomly selected by the guards.  These 10 would pay the price for a fellow prisoner’s escape from prison.  Maximilian told the guards to let him die in place of Francis Gajowniczek who was a husband and father.  Maximilian’s life was ended by an injection of phenol, when after 2 weeks of starvation, he was still conscious among the 4 who were still alive.  The prison guards were irritated by his composure. 

Up to the time of his capture, Maximilian’s order was producing an underground newspaper that was critical of the Third Reich.  Besides being a religious scholar, he was also a brilliant scientist and mathematician.  He is most remembered for his final act of selflessness.  Pope John Paul II declared Maximilian Mary Kolbe a saint in 1982.  Francis Gajowniczek, whose life had been spared at Auschwitz, was present at the ceremony.  Let us ask God to sustain us through our trials today.  By remembering the example of this priest and martyr whose prayers and brave act of selflessness encouraged those imprisoned with him, up to the day of his death we can be confident in our request.

In today’s readings, we are given a vivid description of Yahweh as revealed to the prophet Ezekiel in a vision.  He talks about seeing a human form, sitting on a sapphire in the form of a throne.  In reading the prophet’s description of God, who is surrounded by angels and jewels and light-like-rainbows, I thought about the times I’d wondered why God didn’t reveal Himself to all of us so as to be able to communicate on a human level.  I’ve always thought, that as human beings, we would not be able to endure the Magnificence of the experience.  So it’s always been interesting to read in scripture a description of this heavenly vision.  The description feels make-believe and not real, but I don’t think our words can describe such an encounter, even though people have tried to use them. 

We so much want to make our encounter with God tangible and on the terms we can comprehend.  It is hard to accept our human limitations.  I am resolved to believe that Ezekiel’s attempt to describe his encounter is a harder thing for us to believe, than for us to believe that human beings, regardless of the language they speak will always fall short of being able to describe God. 

In Matthew, Jesus finishes telling His disciples that the “Son of man is going to be delivered into the power of men…put to death…and will be raised up again.” (Matthew 17:22-23)  Then he tells them in the next instance to go ahead and pay a temple tax, so as not to aggravate the half-shekel collectors (and cause their downfall), even though He is the Son of the One for whom the temple is built.  The half shekel is found in the mouth of the first fish caught, as Jesus told them to catch.  God does listen to His Son, He showed us perfect Trust.

The two starkly different stories in Matthew today, show how willing Jesus was to look out for our spiritual selves.  This despite how blind we are to His godliness, asking him to pay a tax while in His Father’s house.  Rather than react with anger at their request, He does not solicit their negative response.  How often do we not see the obvious?   Are our hearts as blind as those we see today?  Let us ask for a measure of Trust, so that when we hear God today we will recognize His voice and follow Him. 

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