August 14, 2015
by Keith Kozak
Creighton University's Campus Ministry
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr
Lectionary: 417

Joshua 24:1-13
Psalm 136:1-3, 16-18, 21-22 and 24
Matthew 19:3-12

Praying Ordinary Time

I served the Blood of Christ at communion at Mass this morning, and I saw the sweetest thing.  A father had his newborn nestled into his arms.  This baby girl couldn’t have been more than a couple of months old, and the innocence and purity of this little one was evident.  I was reminded of the verse where Jesus says "let the little children come to me;" or when he said, "unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."  Sometimes for me this is easier said than done.  However, as I looked at this father with his daughter I was touched by the sweetness and tenderness.  Right behind him was his wife, with her older sons in tow.  This happy family was touching to see and to experience their faith, love for each other, and love for Christ.

Today’s Gospel is not simply about divorce, but about the unity of the family and the sacredness of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony.  It is about two people who are joined together in love by the Lord.

The importance of family and this Gospel reading, leads me to a story about a man named Franciszek Gajowniczek.  Franciszek was a Polish army sergeant who was taken to the concentration camps of Auschwitz, Germany, along with his wife and two boys on September 8, 1940.  While they were there, another prisoner escaped, and the Commander ordered that 10 men die of starvation to make up for the escapee.  Prisoner number 5659, Franciszek Gajowniczek, was selected as one of the 10 men.

Franciszek cried out, “My wife! My children!”  Mmoved with pity, a priest came forward to take Franciszek’s place.  This priest not only knew the importance of the family, but also the sacredness of human life and put this man’s life before his own.  After enduring starvation and watching the other 9 men die, the priest was finally killed by lethal injection.  This martyr suffered in place of another.  The man who sacrificed his life is Maximilian Kolbe, who’s feast day we celebrate today.

Saint Maximilian Kolbe truly knew the definition of love and of sacrifice.  He knew the amazing power of love and what true love looked like.  His life was sacrificed out of true love for another human.

"Let us remember that love lives through sacrifice and is nourished by giving.  Let's remember that not everything which is good and beautiful pertains to genuine, essential love, because even without those other things love can be present, indeed a perfected love.  Without sacrifice there is no love. Sacrifice the senses, taste, hearing, and above all, the mind and the will in holy obedience.  I wish for you and for myself the best appreciation of sacrifice which is the unconditional willingness to sacrifice.”
-Letter of Saint Maximilian to Fr. Konstanty

I’m reminded again of the mother and father at church this morning, and I’m reminded of my own parents who taught me the meaning of love.  Two people who became one flesh united by God; and I have experienced their love as striving to be an “unconditional willingness to sacrifice,” which is love, itself.  We are not perfect, and so we turn to a perfect example of sacrifice.  Our model and guide to learn, know, understand, and embrace sacrifice is Jesus Christ who died on the cross for us.  If we want to learn how to love, we must learn how to sacrifice; if we want to learn how to sacrifice, we must turn to the greatest sacrifice. “The Cross is the school of love.” –St. Maximilian Kolbe

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