18 April 2018

'I lay down my life for the sheep.' Sunday Reflections, Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B

Christ the Good Shepherd, Murillo [WikiArt]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel John 10:11-18 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)

Jesus said:

‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’

Janusz Korczak
(22 July 1878 or 1879 – 7 August 1942)

When St John Paul II canonised St Maximilian Kolbe OFMConv on 10 October 1982 he cited Janusz Korczak, a Jewish writer and teacher, who went to his death with a group of orphans in his charge although he had been offered the chance to be spared. He was also a pediatrician.

There were similarities between the sacrifice of of Fr Kolbe and Dr Korczak, both Polish. Fr Kolbe offered his life in exchange for that of Franciszek Gajowniczek,  a young Polish soldier interned in Auschwitz who was to be executed with nine others chosen at random because three of their companions had escaped. The Franciscan friar heard the young soldier cry 'My wife and my children'. His offer was accepted and he and the other nine were put in a cell and left without food or water. After two weeks the Franciscan priest was the only one still alive and was given a lethal injection on 14 August 1941.

Almost a year later Janusz Korczak was to die in Treblinka extermination camp along with nearly 200 Jewish orphans who had been living in the orphanage that he had set up in Warsaw in 1911-12. However, when the Nazis took over Warsaw they forced the orphanage to move to the Ghetto that they created in a district of the Polish capital in late 1940.

German soldiers came on 5 or 6 August 1942 to collect the orphans and about 12 staff members to take them to Treblinka. Dr Korczak had already turned down offers of sanctuary for himself before this and turned down an offer at this point.

A witness described the scene: Janusz Korczak was marching, his head bent forward, holding the hand of a child, without a hat, a leather belt around his waist, and wearing high boots. A few nurses were followed by two hundred children, dressed in clean and meticulously cared for clothes, as they were being carried to the altar.

At the point of departure for Treblinka an SS officer recognised Dr Korczak as the author of a book that was a favourite of his children and offered him a means of escape. Once again this remarkable man turned down this offer and went with the children to the camp where their lives were soon to end in the gas chambers.

Janusz Korczak could not save the lives of the children under his care but he made sure that they left the orphanage with dignity, wearing their best clothes and each bringing an item that was special to him or her. He chose not to leave them but to die with them.

St Maximilan Kolbe chose to give his life for someone he did not know because that man had a family and he hadn't.

Cell where St Maximilan Kolbe died [Wikipedia]

The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep (John 10:13-15).

Monument to Janusz Korczak, Warsaw [Wikipedia]

Antiphona ad communionem
Communion Antiphon

Surrexit Pastor Bonus,
The Good Shepherd has risen,
qui animam suam posuit pro ovibus suis,
who laid down his life for his sheep
et pro grege suo mori dignatus est, alleluia.
And willingly died for his flock, alleluia.

1 comment:

Liam Hayden said...

Dear Sean, wonderful to see the self-sacrifice of those Polish heroes.It made me think of the sacrifices through mortification we must be prepared to make for a 'NO' vote in the upcoming referendum. I met 2 elderly Irish ladies recently after mass and we shared a table for tea. One was Chair of her Parish Pastoral Council and felt that "they shouldn't have to travel overseas to have an abortion'. The other agreed and it took some considerable time for me to disabuse them of this notion and , I'm still not sure how they'll vote. Their P.P said to them " he doesn't want any discussion on the subject at all" at parish level.
One despairs at this level of ignorance of the substantive issue because if we lose this constituency of voter, we're bound for a deadly loss.
Lots of prayer and sacrifice needed!
God bless,