Ez 16:1-15, 60, 63; Is 12:2-6; Mt 19:3-12
The story of Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe is contemporary. During the Nazi control of Germany many innocent and powerless people were thrown unjustly into prison. The Franciscan Priest Maximilian was considered a threat to the great Nazi propaganda effort because he published and taught the truth in the face of their lies. The Nazis were ruthless atheists; they had forgotten the works of the LORD. With their total disregard of human dignity, they tempted and rebelled against God the Most High, and kept not his decrees. They turned back and were faithless like their ancestors; they recoiled like a treacherous bow. With their great display of Nazi supremacy, with their worship of the power of the state, the Nazis roused God’s jealousy. The LORD was enraged and utterly rejected those who tried to eliminate His Chosen People. Hitler’s final solution for the so-called Jewish problem was the same solution he had for the so-called Catholic problem. Any and all who resisted his terrorism and lies were exterminated. Even though he was just another number, even though he was just another powerless prisoner, Father Kolbe stood up and revealed the true power of human dignity. His choice to die in the place of a fellow Jewish husband and father was a light too bright for the Nazis to bear. They could not fathom his generosity. They were blinded by the light of Christ, a light that was not overcome by the darkness of any totalitarian state or atheistic ideology. Father Maximilian was given the grace to die like the Lord Jesus; he died out of love, self-sacrificial love. His witness proclaimed the truth of the gospel even among those who could not hear his testimony. His martyrdom enables us to not forget the wonders of the LORD. The merciful love of the martyr Maximilian is not just another beautiful story; it is a severe demand upon anyone who eats the bread and drinks the blood of Christ, our Lord and God.
What is the LORD’s glorious achievement? The Theotokos, the Virgin Mother of God, is the LORD’s glorious achievement. In her is the great and Holy One of Israel; in her womb is the Savior long expected. God himself is the savior; we have nothing to fear. Our strength and our courage is the LORD, Our Savior. The deep and cool waters from the well of salvation bring joy to our flesh and to our spirit. His Name, LORD, is worthy of all thanks, and all acclaim because he has done mighty deeds among us. Right out loud and in the midst of the crowd of nations, we stand up to make known his mighty deeds and to proclaim how exalted is His Name. We join with Saint Elizabeth, Saint Luke, and all the saints to bless the One who trusted the LORD’s word to her, and with the Blessed Virgin Mary we too magnify the LORD. In the Immaculate and Blessed Theotokos we are introduced to the glorious achievement of the incarnation of the Eternal Word. She is a glorious achievement because she is hospitable to God. In her grace-filled response to the Archangel, the Blessed Virgin Mary became a model for all who entertain the divine, for all who pray—seriously and faithfully. Indeed, the old and new, City of Zion shouts with exultation for here and now in our midst is the Holy One of Israel. Indeed, it is the Theotokos, the God-Bearer, herself who summons us to rejoice and be glad even in the midst of our suffering. When our hearts remember and our minds behold the glorious achievement of the incarnation, we come close to Jesus through Mary. Indeed, the God-Bearer, still bears the Word Made Flesh for the salvation of all people.
The glorious achievement in the incarnation is continued and glorious in the beloved spouse of the divine bridegroom. The Lord Jesus is the definitive offer of spousal love from the LORD God Almighty. This love is foreshadowed in the love of God for Jerusalem. The LORD spoke to the heart of Ezekiel about the day of her birth. Although she was thrown out on the ground and something loathsome, the LORD did not forget her; he did not abandon his beloved. When she grew in her blood like a plant in the field, after she was developed and old enough for love, the LORD spread the corner of his cloak over her to cover her nakedness. The LORD swore an oath to her and entered into a covenant with her. She became his people and the LORD became her spouse. Indeed, the LORD bestowed his splendor upon his beloved. Even this blessedness was not enough for Jerusalem. Her own beauty captivated her, and she made herself a harlot. However, the LORD set up an eternal covenant with her, and she was covered with confusion. Jerusalem was utterly silenced for shame when the LORD pardoned her for all her unfaithfulness. This is the same silence that captivates us when we enter into the sacrament of reconciliation and receive what we can never deserve, the severe mercy and complete forgiveness of the LORD, our divine bridegroom. The words of Ezekiel still speak to our hearts for we are always in need of reformation, as a community and as individuals called to holiness and spousal love.
This mercy is fulfilled and completed in the New Covenant. The fulfillment of all prophecy, Jesus Christ, has come to teach the people all they need to know about the Mercy of God. Some Pharisees attempt to entangle Jesus in a controversy so that he might be like them, just another teacher limited by those who came before him. At the very heart of God’s people is the family. In and through the covenant of love between husband and wife the Lord reveals his tender mercies to each generation of the children of Israel. When the Pharisees appeal to Moses’ command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her. The Lord Jesus reminds them of the real issue at stake here, hardness of heart. He retells the story of mercy from the beginning. “Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.” Husband and wife become one flesh, and how can they be separated except in death? The same hardness of heart survives to our own day. The covenant of marriage has become a mere contract that is easily broken when it becomes a burden. Rather than trying to work through any problems and treat one another with mercy, today couples dismiss one another a first response to difficulty. We give thanks today that our Divine Spouse continues to be faithful and even now shows us his mercy.