Fr Denis Brown
“The Word was made Flesh and lived amongst us!”
What does that mean for us in 2021? Now it is our turn to be the Flesh of God made visible. We together are also called “The Body of Christ”, God visible in our world today.
One recent saint in our church made the Word of God very visible to the people of his time.
Fr. Maximilian Mary Kolbe (b. Poland, 1894), was arrested by the Gestapo in February 1941 and sent to Auschwitz Concentration Camp. There he quickly won himself a reputation for kindness and dedication to the needs of his fellow prisoners.
In July of that year one of the prisoners escaped and the camp commander was so furious that he made the prisoners stand in line as he chose ten men at random to be executed. One of the chosen men threw himself to the ground pleading for mercy, saying he had a young wife and family at home. Then tan incredible thing happened: Fr. Kolbe stepped forward and offered to take the man’s place and the commander agreed.
Fr. Kolbe and the other nine men were locked in a cellar and left to starve to death as a deterrent to would be escapers. Each day as the guards checked in on the prisoners they were surprised to see Fr. Kolbe laughing, joking, praying and singing with the other prisoners. A number of weeks went by. One by one they died, until only Fr. Kolbe was left alive. On the night of 14th August 1941 the guards “took pity on him” and injected him with poison sending him to God.
The man whose place Fr. Kolbe took survived the camp and the war. Later he stated: “At first I felt terrible at the thought of leaving another man die in my place. But then I realised that he had done this, not so much to save my life, as to be with the other nine in their last terrible agony. His nearness to them in those dreadful last hours was worth more than a lifetime of preaching”.
True love goes beyond the giving of gifts. It requires the giving of oneself.
Fr. Kolbe’s presence with them, sharing in full their terrible ordeal, was worth more than anything else, even though he could not do anything to save them from their cruel fate.
This is the note that struck me about the Gospel. God is present with his people; as John said, “He lived amongst us.” He has shared our lives fully and knows what it is like to be human like us, and not only our lives but our death also.
So the Word was made Flesh and lived amongst us.
St John Paul II, a fellow Pole, canonised Fr. Kolbe on 10th of October 1982.
The man whose life St. Maximilian saved was at the Canonisation Ceremony with his family, children and grandchildren.
So as we enter a new year, let us reflect on how you and I can make God Visible in a world that desperately needs to see him alive and active amongst us.