Auschwitz, Christ, Christian life, Christianity, discipleship, faith, hope, Pope Francis, St. Maximillian Kolbe, World Youth Day
You may be aware that World Youth Day is occurring in Krakow, Poland. World Youth Day is a gathering of the Church’s youth and young adults for days of catechesis, worship and prayer. The event culminates on Sunday with a Papal Mass. Pope Francis is in Krakow with the world’s young people. I have been viewing different images via social media from the gathering but what has struck me most is a six minute video of Pope Francis visiting the concentration camp at Auschwitz and taking some private moments of prayer in the cell which housed St. Maximillian Kolbe before his death. St. Maximillian Kolbe was a Catholic priest who volunteered his own life in order to let another prisoner live who was a husband and father. The video, which is all in silence, is almost surreal. (I have posted the video on our parish Facebook page.)
Pope Francis arrives simply at the cell as is his wont. He first peers into the darkened cell then steps in. A chair is brought in and the Holy Father sits and we are given this amazing image of the successor to St. Peter clad in white sitting in a darkened cell with his head bowed in prayer in this place of unimaginable horror.
In visiting this cell and the concentration camp, Pope Francis has once again gone to the wounded heart of our world. He has visited this place before. He went there when he first visited the small island of Lampedusa to pray for migrants who had died trying to cross the Mediterranean and he goes there whenever he visits with the poor and forgotten and those who live on the periphery of our world. In all of his travels, Pope Francis is intent on going to the heart of our world.
He goes there because that is where our Lord went. In today’s gospel (Lk. 12:13-21) a man approaches Jesus and asks him to arbitrate between he and his brother about an inheritance. Our Lord brushes the request aside because he knows that is not the real heart of the matter. The heart of the matter is the wound of greed and pride which lies within every human heart. It is from this wound that unimaginable horrors can spring. Our Lord will ultimately answer this wound as only he can – from the cross and the empty tomb.
“Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Life is not found nor is it gained through things. Life is found and life is gained through relationships and friendship, especially those based in humility and honest care.
The first relationship is ours with God. The man in the parable is thinking about many things and some of those may be very good such as providing for his family and loved ones but in the parable we see that he really gives no attention to God. God says to the man, “You fool, your life will be demanded of you and to whom will go all these things (your worries, your plans) that you have prepared?” God has no concern for our worries or our plans. God only has concern for us. God only wants relationship with us – not friendship with our plans or our imaginings. Living in that honest relationship with God is where true life is found and gained.
The second relationship is ours with all of our brothers and sisters. Pope Francis knows this. Whenever he visits the wounded heart of our world he is visiting his brothers and sisters and there he encounters Christ. It seems to me that outside of the Blessed Sacrament itself, the place where we most find and encounter our Lord is within our wounded brothers and sisters. They are the presence of God to us and we, in our own woundedness, are the very same presence to them. Do we live this truth in the way we interact with one another or will God also call us fools for missing what was right in front of us for so long?
Christ always goes to the true heart of the matter because that is where life is found.
He invites us to do the same.