Tuesday, August 13, 2019

“Accepting God’s Plan for Us” by Colleen O’Sullivan

“Accepting God’s Plan for Us” by Colleen O’Sullivan

Memorial of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr

Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, the headland of Pisgah which faces Jericho, and the Lord showed him all the land - Gilead, and as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, the circuit of the Jordan with the lowlands at Jericho, city of palms, and as far as Zoar. The LORD then said to him, "This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that I would give to their descendants. I have let you feast your eyes upon it, but you shall not cross over." (Deuteronomy 34:1-4)

Lord, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change.

So near and yet so far. Moses sees before him the goal of the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. A major portion of his life has been spent leading God’s people to this Promised Land. Here they are at last, and God permits him only to feast his eyes upon the vista from the mountaintop before his death. Entry into this land is forbidden to him. (God said this was the consequence of Moses not acknowledging God’s holiness before the people at Meribah –-Numbers 20:8-12.) Here a divine “No” is spoken.

What amazes me is Moses’ humility in accepting this. No begging God to relent. No spewing forth of disappointment or bitterness. Moses simply takes in the vision before him. Maybe that is enough for him. Maybe God always intended Moses’ journey to be over at this point. Maybe Moses is thinking, “I did it. We made it! I’m old and I can rest knowing I’ve fulfilled my mission.”

Not all of us would be so accepting. In Jeremiah 18:1-3, God is depicted as the Divine Potter. God molds us and shapes us. If the result isn’t pleasing, the Potter rolls the clay back into a ball and begins again. I remember a retreat director once making the remark that it’s a shame when we spend our lives wishing we were beautiful vases when we could have been quite content as the serviceable soup bowls God intended us to be.

Life would be a whole lot easier if we acknowledged that we’re not the ones doing all the creating, that God has a great deal to do with who we are and where we find ourselves. And sometimes we find ourselves in places where we’d rather not be.
Fr. Maximilian Kolbe 1939, Public Domain,
Wikimedia Commons
Certainly, that must have been true for St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose feast day we observe today. Born in 1895, he grew up in Poland, which at that time belonged to the Russian Empire. He and his brother joined the Conventual Franciscans. After professing his final vows, he was sent to Rome to study. In 1918, St. Maximilian Kolbe was ordained a priest. He returned to Poland, where he taught in a seminary, founded a religious publishing press, as well as set up another Conventual Franciscan monastery.

After World War II broke out, St. Maximilian Kolbe was one of the few people left at the monastery. Nevertheless, he opened a temporary hospital on the premises and helped thousands of people seeking shelter from all over Poland, including Jews. The monastery continued to publish anti-Nazi German publications. In 1941, the Nazis shut the monastery down and arrested Kolbe and several others. St. Maximilian Kolbe ended up in Auschwitz, where he continued to fulfill his priestly functions. At one point, the Nazis selected ten men to starve to death in retaliation for the escape of one prisoner. One of these men was beside himself, thinking of his wife and children. Kolbe volunteered to take his place. Even while being starved to death, he saw to the spiritual needs of the others in the underground bunker with him. When only he was left, the guards gave him a lethal injection.

As I reflected on his life story, I saw someone else who accepted a life situation he couldn’t change. He remained the person he believed God wanted him to be, a priest, to the very end. He died so that someone else could live, a Christ-like giving of himself for another. St. Maximilian Kolbe was canonized on October 10, 1982.

Moses did the hard work of getting God’s people to the Promised Land. It would have been understandable if he had been disappointed at only getting a glimpse of it, while his leadership position passed to Joshua. But he accepted the role God gave him to play with good grace.

No one ever would have wanted to end up in Auschwitz, and many who might have survived simply lost the will to live. St. Maximilian Kolbe kept on doing what God called him to do – be a priest to others and live/die in a Christlike manner.

When you’re praying today, spend some time reflecting on your life. Maybe it hasn’t turned out the way you envisioned it, but do you think it’s turned out the way God pictured it would?

No comments: