Thursday, August 14, 2008
Thursday in the 19th Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Memorial of St. Maximillian Kolbe, Priest & Martyr
Readings: Ezekiel 12:1-12; Psalms 78:56-57, 58-59, 61-62; Matthew 18:21–19:1
Picture: CC karroozi
How do you feel when you see signs that are missing letters of the alphabet in them? Sometimes I find them funny, especially when an unintended message is sent as a result. But at other times, I find myself rather irked that those who put up the sign don’t care enough to ensure that it actually says what it’s meant to say. Someone somewhere has been negligent. Someone has dropped the ball. As a result, the sign isn’t as effective as it should be.
Memories of such signs, as well as my reactions to them, are what our readings bring to mind today. For we all know that as followers of Christ, members of his Church, we are called to be signs – or sacraments, to be more exact – of God’s loving and compassionate presence in the world. And, in the gospel, Jesus highlights an essential aspect of this sign, a crucial letter in the message that we are meant to bear. In reply to Peter’s query about whether or not he has to forgive a wayward brother even up to seven times, Jesus replies: Not seven times but seventy-seven times. And yet, this is a letter that so easily falls off our sign. Forgiveness demands so much from us that we may sometimes simply decide to forget about it, to leave our sign hanging with missing letters? The effort is just too much for us.
In contrast, our first reading presents us with someone who faithfully maintains the accuracy of the message on his sign, even when the going gets tough. In order to send the people the message that they will be exiled if they do not repent of their rebellious and idolatrous ways, God makes a demanding request of the prophet. He has to pack up his things, and depart from his home through a hole in the wall. And the prophet obeys. He doesn’t flinch from God’s call. The message is sent without any missing letters.
We find the same thing to an even greater degree in the life of the saint whom we celebrate today. It is a story we know well. Incarcerated by the Nazis at Auschwitz, St. Maximillian Kolbe volunteered to be executed in place of a young father. He did not flinch from sacrificing even his life, so as to continue presenting to the world an accurate sign of God’s inexhaustible love.
What is it, we may wonder, that sets Ezekiel and Maximillian apart from the rest of us? What is it that enables them to maintain the accuracy of their sign, even when an apparently superhuman effort is required of them? Perhaps it’s got to do with their intimate relationship, their close communication with the divine Sign-maker. Isn’t this also what we find in the life of that Sign of all signs, Christ our Lord?
As we reflect on their examples, perhaps we may consider if there are any missing letters on our sign, both as individuals as well as a community.
How accurate is the message we are sending today?
Posted by Fr Chris at 11:08 am