Homily given on the Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, August 14, 2010
by Fr. Patrick Greenough, OFM Conv.
Auschwitz was a concentration camp and an extermination camp.
For most Jews it was an extermination camp.
As soon as they arrived they were singled out.
Told to strip and go into the showers.
Except they were not showers.
They were extermination bunkers where they were killed by cyclone B
Suffocated to death in a matter of minutes.
Exterminated like so much vermin.
The others were sent to the concentration camp.
There they were stripped of their clothes and their heads were shaved.
They no longer had names.
Instead they were branded with numbers like animals.
When they cleaned the latrines and carried the sewage in wheelbarrows if the filth from the sewage splashed up on their face they could not stop to wipe it off.
If they did they were beaten.
So even normal, human actions and attitudes were not allowed.
In that way their humanity was stripped from them.
And they became like animals.
Until one day when a prisoner escaped!
All of the prisoners from his cell block were forced to stand for 8 hours in the hot summer sun with no food or water.
If they fell over from exhaustion they were dragged away and piled up like a pile of sticks
The rest were eventually sent to bed with no food.
The next day they were lined up again and this time the commandant began to pick them out one by one like dogs for the starvation bunker, until one man stepped out of line.
It was Maximilian Kolbe!
By his stepping out of line it was the ultimate statement that he was not an animal.
He was a human being with free will who inspite of the hatred and the beatings and starvation still chose to love!
What in the world wants to take away our humanity and turn us into animals?
Advertising treats us like animals who cannot control our appetites.
Pornography treats us like animals who cannot control our desires.
Everytime we give into our basest desires and instincts we are no more than an animal.
But we are made in the image and likeness of God!
We have a dignity that no one can take from us.
To say that we are made in the image and likeness of God is to say that Love is the reason for our existence for God is Love.
Love is our true character.
Love is our true self.
Love is our name!
Nothing could keep Maximilian from loving.
Not hatred, not beatings, not even death by starvation!
Each one of us should not be afraid to step out of the assembly line of life and declare that we are not consumers, we are not animals, we are not social security numbers.
we are human beings made in the image and likeness of God
And that love and nothing else is the reason for our existence and the motivation of all we do!
For love is our name!