Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 14 August 2020, during this time of the coronavirus pandemic. It is also available on the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Please also see below the text of his reflection, primarily for the deaf.
Reflection for Friday 14 August 2020: Maximilian Kolbe – A Saint for our time.
In times of distress, humanity looks for heroes to light up the dark pathways we have to tread. That is why in some places of the world, those on the frontlines are saluted. This happened with the first responders and emergency personnel when New York’s twin towers were demolished, and currently we see it when frontline workers who treat Covid-19 patients are cheered. We need heroes.
Today such a hero is held up before us by the Church as we celebrate the martyrdom of St Maximilian Kolbe – the Franciscan who died in place of another. The Nazis imprisoned him at the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp in 1941 for offering safety to mainly Jewish refugees in a community he founded. One prisoner escaped and for that ten others had to pay the price by being starved to death. He offered himself in place of one of the men sentenced to die. His logic was that the man whom he replaced had dependents but he, being celibate, had no children to support.
St Maximilian was ahead of his time – discerning a spiritual crisis he urged the Christians to use modern means of communication to evangelise. He founded a newspaper and a radio station – dare we say the precursor of our live-streamed Masses of today! Prior to being imprisoned he studied Buddhism and Shintoism in Japan and spread the Christian message using the Japanese edition of his newspaper.
This saint is highly relevant for our time. Firstly, Catholic media in South Africa is facing severe difficulties and we need his intercessions. Secondly, we are called to make sacrifices so that others may not become infected with Covid-19. Surely we can learn from this hero who paid the ultimate price. One can have no greater love than to give one’s life for another (John 15:13). The sacrifices we are called to make are relatively small compared to his. We find it difficult to wear a mask – he put on love (Colossians 3:14). The word used for love in the original language of the New Testament indicates the total self giving love that we see on Calvary. We find it difficult to practice social distancing – he practiced the ultimate in distancing. We find it difficult to be under lockdown and curfew even while we stay at home – he was imprisoned in a concentration camp. Let us learn from the example of this great hero of the Christian faith. He knew how to lose his life in order to save it (cf. Matthew 10:39).
Let us pray: Lord, give us strength not to lose sight of your call to each of us during this time of danger. Help us to imitate the St Maximilian Kolbe by making sacrifices for our neighbours and colleagues. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.[Blessing].