Memorial of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr
Reading 1 ez 12:1-12
Son of man, you live in the midst of a rebellious house;
they have eyes to see but do not see,
and ears to hear but do not hear,
for they are a rebellious house.
Now, son of man, during the day while they are looking on,
prepare your baggage as though for exile,
and again while they are looking on,
migrate from where you live to another place;
perhaps they will see that they are a rebellious house.
You shall bring out your baggage like an exile in the daytime
while they are looking on;
in the evening, again while they are looking on,
you shall go out like one of those driven into exile;
while they look on, dig a hole in the wall and pass through it;
while they look on, shoulder the burden and set out in the darkness;
cover your face that you may not see the land,
for I have made you a sign for the house of Israel.I did as I was told.
During the day I brought out my baggage
as though it were that of an exile,
and at evening I dug a hole through the wall with my hand
and, while they looked on, set out in the darkness,
shouldering my burden.Then, in the morning, the word of the LORD came to me:
Son of man, did not the house of Israel, that rebellious house,
ask you what you were doing?
Tell them: Thus says the Lord GOD:
This oracle concerns Jerusalem
and the whole house of Israel within it.
I am a sign for you:
as I have done, so shall it be done to them;
as captives they shall go into exile.
The prince who is among them shall shoulder his burden
and set out in darkness,
going through a hole he has dug out in the wall,
and covering his face lest he be seen by anyone.
Responsorial Psalm ps 78:56-57, 58-59, 61-62
They tempted and rebelled against God the Most High,
and kept not his decrees.
They turned back and were faithless like their fathers;
they recoiled like a treacherous bow.
R. Do not forget the works of the Lord!
They angered him with their high places
and with their idols roused his jealousy.
God heard and was enraged
and utterly rejected Israel.
R. Do not forget the works of the Lord!
And he surrendered his strength into captivity,
his glory in the hands of the foe.
He abandoned his people to the sword
and was enraged against his inheritance.
R. Do not forget the works of the Lord!
Gospel mt 18:21-19:1
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
‘Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
But he refused.
Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed,
and went to their master and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee
and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan.
• Matthew 18, 21-22: Forgive seventy times seven! Before the words of Jesus on fraternal correction and reconciliation, Peter asks: “How often must I forgive? Seven times?” Seven is a number which indicates perfection and, in the case of the proposal of Peter, seven is synonymous of always. But Jesus goes beyond. He eliminates all and whatever possible limitation there may be to pardon: “Not seven I tell you, but seventy-seven times”. It is as if he would say “Always, N0! Peter. But seventy times seven always!”. And this because there is no proportion between God’s love for us and our love for our brother. Here we recall the episode of the Old Testament of Lamech: “Lamech says to his wives, Adah and Zollah, hear my voice; listen to what I say: I killed a man for wounding me, a boy for striking me. Sevenfold vengeance for Cain, but seventy-sevenfold for Lamech” (Gn 4, 23-24). The task of the communities is to invert the process of the spiral of violence. In order to clarify his response to Peter, Jesus tells them the parable of pardon without limits.
• Matthew 18, 23-27: The attitude of the master. This parable is an allegory, that is, Jesus speaks about a master, but thinks of God. This explains the enormous contrasts of the parable. As we will see, in spite that it is a question of daily ordinary things, there is something in this story which does not take place in daily life. In the story which Jesus tells, the master follows the norms of the law or rights of that time. It was his right to take a labourer with all his family and to keep him in prison until he would have paid his debt carrying out his work as a slave. But before the request of the debtor servant, the master forgives the debt. What strikes us is the amount: ten thousand talents! One talent was equal to 35 kg, and so according to the estimate made, ten thousand talents were equal to 350 tons of gold. Even if the debtor and his family would have worked their whole life, they would never have been capable to earn 350 tons of gold. The extreme estimate is made on purpose. Our debt before God is countless and unpayable!
• Matthew 18, 28-31: The attitude of the labourer. As soon as he went out, that servant found a fellow servant as himself who owned him one hundred denarii and, he seized him by the throat and began to throttle him saying: Pay what you owe! This servant owed him one hundred denarii; that is the salary of one hundred days of work. Some have estimated that it was a question of 30 grams of gold. There was no comparison between the two! But this makes us understand the attitude of the labourer: God forgives him 350 tons of gold and he is not capable to forgive 30 grams of gold. Instead of forgiving, he does to the companion what the master could have done with him, but did not do it. He puts in prison his companion according to the norms of the law until he would have paid his debt. This is an inhuman attitude, which also strikes the other companions. Seeing what had happened, the other servants were sad and went to refer to their master everything which had happened. We also would have done the same; we would also have had the same attitude of disapproval.
The community: an alternative space of solidarity and fraternity. The society of the Roman Empire was hard and heartless, without any space for the little ones. They sought some refuge for the heart and did not find it. The Synagogues were very demanding and did not offer a place for them. In the Christian communitie4s, the rigour of some concerning the observance of the Law in the daily life followed the same criteria as society and as the Synagogue. Thus, in the communities, the same divisions which existed in society and in the Synagogue, between rich and poor, dominion and submission, man and woman, race and religion, began to appear. The community instead of being a place of acceptance became a place of condemnation. By uniting the words of Jesus, Matthew wants to enlighten the journey of the followers of Jesus, in order that the communities may be an alternative place of solidarity and of fraternity. They should be Good News for the poor.
• Jesus gives us the example. At the time of death he asks pardon for his murderers (Lk 13, 34). Am I capable to imitate Jesus?
praised be the name of Yahweh!
Supreme over all nations is Yahweh,
supreme over the heavens his glory. (Ps 113,3-4)
FORGIVENESS CAN ONLY COME FROM THE HEART
SCRIPTURE READINGS: EZ 12:1-12, 60, 63; MT 18:21-19:1
The gospel today touches on something which perhaps is one of the most difficult things in life that we are called to do: to forgive those who have hurt us. Yet forgiveness is such a logical thing to do in life. We all know very well that when we fail to forgive and be reconciled with those who hurt us, we cannot find real peace within ourselves. We can pretend that we can live with our unforgiveness. But we know that deep inside us, we are cheating ourselves. In this sense, we can understand why Jesus says that the Heavenly Father cannot forgive us unless we forgive those who have hurt us. This must not be understood as the Father withholding forgiveness from us; rather we withhold forgiveness to ourselves and to others.
Furthermore, the parable in today’s gospel makes it so clear that it is absolutely logical that we must forgive. The fact is that we are all sinners. We have hurt others as much or even more than others have hurt us. And if we have been forgiven, how could we continue to resist forgiving others who have hurt us? Yes, I’m sure that upon hearing the parable told by Jesus, we are also cut to the quick, like the fellow servants who were dismayed to discover that their fellow servant who has been forgiven by their master should treat his fellow servant without mercy and compassion. Indeed, like them, in our minds, we say, “How can?”
Alas, the truth is that forgiveness is not a logical thing. That is why when Peter asked Jesus how often he must forgive his brothers who have wronged him, the answer of Jesus was “not seven … but seventy-seven times.” In other words, forgiveness is not a mathematical problem that we solve like some other logical problems in life. Forgiveness is not simply a rational problem but it is a problem of the heart as well. Consequently, Jesus in exhorting us to forgive says that we must forgive from our heart.
Indeed, this, perhaps, is where the real obstacle is: finding the courage and strength to forgive those who have hurt us. The problem is that we try to solve the problem too intellectually. Man is not simply a rational being; he is also a feeling being. In fact, it is feelings that control the happiness of a person much more than his thinking. Consequently, in any misunderstanding or injury, the heart is wounded at its core. Thus, even if we want to forgive we find ourselves incapable of forgiving, for the simple reason that our feelings remain hurt. Hence, it is not so much why we should forgive but rather how we should forgive. No one wants to retain events that do not promote their happiness and peace. So how can we heal ourselves so that forgiveness can be effected easily?
Firstly, we must realize, not only intellectually but existentially that we are truly sinners. It is not enough to verbally proclaim that we are sinners. We all know that. But do we really feel that we are great sinners? The sad reality is that many of us while proclaiming ourselves to be sinners do not really feel that we are so. Deep within ourselves, we do not really believe that we are sinners. In fact, most of us think that we are saints. Only because we think that we are saints and perfect, do we feel justified to judge and condemn others. Indeed, if we really believe that we are sinners, would we have the moral authority to judge others? Our rash judgment of others implies that we live impeccable lives. Hence, if we want to be compassionate, we must experience in the depths of our being, our sinful condition. How can we do this? By returning to our past, especially those moments when we have sinned terribly against God, ourselves or our fellow human beings. Then, we did not have the dignity even to face people. But because we have been forgiven, we could begin our lives anew.
The second stage in the process of forgiveness then follows. Once we get in touch with our past and the experience of forgiveness, we will also be able to give this to those who have hurt us as well. As it is said, “Freely we have received, freely we give as well.” By realizing our own mistakes in the past, we learn to identify ourselves with those who have hurt us. Just as we needed time and space to grow, we too can give others space and time to grow.
Thirdly, we must realize that in the final analysis, forgiveness demands hospitality. We must be generous enough to give room to others in their weaknesses. It requires a magnanimous heart. Instead of focusing on how we have been hurt by the other person, we must focus on how the person is also hurting himself in that process. Of course such magnanimity presupposes that we have been forgiven before. As Jesus told once said, “Those who have been forgiven much will also love much.”
It is unfortunate that most of us tend to forget that we have been forgiven. This is so ironical. We remember for a long, long time and even for life, those who have hurt us. But we have such short memories of people who have forgiven us and loved us in spite of our blunders in life. Like Ezekiel who through a prophetic act reminded his people of their state, we too perhaps need to reflect on our past, those who have forgiven us and especially the forgiveness of God in the crucified Christ, so that our hearts can be touched and healed. Only then can we have the strength to forgive from our hearts those who have hurt us.
If not, then we will behave exactly like the servant in today’s gospel. We will destroy ourselves eventually because in passing harsh judgments on others who have failed us, we cannot but also prepare our own destruction. Remember the the proverb which says, “those who live in glass houses must not throw stones.” Precisely, because we all live in glass houses, let us realize, before we throw stones at others, that we cannot pretend to be faultless ourselves.
Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe, O.F.M. Conv., (Polish: Maksymilian Maria Kolbe [maksɨˌmiljan ˌmarja ˈkɔlbɛ]; 8 January 1894 – 14 August 1941) was a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar, who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz, located in German-occupied Poland during World War II.
Kolbe was canonized on 10 October 1982 by Pope John Paul II, and declared a martyr of charity. He is the patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, prisoners, and the pro-life movement. John Paul II declared him “The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century”.
Due to Kolbe’s efforts to promote consecration and entrustment to Mary, he is known as the Apostle of Consecration to Mary.
Tags: as I have done so shall it be done to them, August 14 2014, “I say to you not seven times but seventy-seven times., carry the cross, ez 12:1-12, for I have made you a sign for the house of Israel, fraternal correction, God's will, Hercules, Hercules statue by William Brodie, Lord if my brother sins against me how often must I forgive him?, Maximilian Kolbe, Memorial of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan., mt 18:21-19:1, pour yourself out, Prayer and Meditation, prepare your baggage as though for exile, Prisoner Accepts Death To Save Another, Psalm 78, Reconciliation, self sacrifice, self-abandonment, service to others, shoulder the burden and set out in the darkness, So will my heavenly Father do to you unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart, St. Maximilian Kolbe, will of God, William Brodie