[A Homily of Fr. Matthew Kelty, O.C.S.O. for the 26th  Sunday of the Year (C), 2004: (Lk 16:19-31)]

A Bit Much !

 To me, the most significant line in this great story in today’s Gospel is at the end: “Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’”

We often  up the ante as a condition for some bargain. But of course it does not work. We are still not satisfied.

We believe in the mercy of God. At least out of one side of our mouth. On the other side we doubt it.

And wait for some coming proof. Which comes, and before which we persist in doubt.

I read the following remarkable tale of Rudolph Hoess to guests. I am not sure of their reaction. But I sense troubled souls. Can this be true? A bit much, is it not?

It is indeed a bit much.

And so is His “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” A murder of the Son of God at our hands by our sins.

A bit much indeed.

Centuries later we still doubt. The proof of that is our mercy to others. For an experience of mercy leads most certainly to a passing it on. And so a merciful people. Pass it on.

And then thrust in our face is a story like this—an outrageous mercy. Incredible.  Here’s the story:

   Let us pray for the Nazis, because no conversion is impossible!” Fr. Maximilian Kolbe said to his friend Fr. John Lipsky in Auschwitz. In the end, he was right.
    In 1947, a few days before his execution, Rudolph Hoess, one of the cruelest mass murderers in the course of history, converted. In the Nuremberg Trials, as well as in the Warsaw National Court, Hoess confessed to being responsible for everything that happened under his command at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Calm and matter of fact, he confirmed that three million people died under his leadership.
    Already after he had been condemned to death, he heard the bells of a nearby Carmelite convent in his prison cell in Krakow. He remembered how he stood at the altar as an altar boy and how becoming a priest had been his dream. Then, the virtually unthinkable happened: Hoess wanted to talk to a priest. When there was no response to his wish, he repeated his plea in a written petition. In the end, Fr. Wladyslaw Lohn SJ was chosen to take on this delicate mission. The provincial of the southern Poland Jesuits, he was very well informed about the concentration camp Auschwitz which was situated there.
    Before he went to Rudolph Hoess, he went to get spiritual support from the convent where St. Faustina had lived and received the revelations of Divine Mercy. Fr. Lohn then spoke several hours with Hoess. At the end of the conversation, the former commander of Auschwitz made a profession of Catholic Faith and officially came back to the Church. Then Hoess received sacramental confession.
    Years later, Fr. Lohn testified that he prepared this man, who had been condemned to death, for confession by speaking about Jesus’ heart. On the following day, Fr. Lohn brought Holy Eucharist to the converted Hoess. On receiving Holy Communion, he knelt down in the middle of his cell and cried. He dismissed the priest with the words, “God has forgiven me, but the people will never forgive me!” Anticipating his imminent death and reconciled with God, he wrote a touching and loving farewell letter from prison the next day, April 11, 1947, to his wife and his five children. In it he openly stated the motives for his behavior and admitted his faults, but he also describes his sincere and caring love for his family and describes his return to God: “It was a difficult struggle. Yet I found my faith again in the Lord my God.”
    On April 12, four days before execution, Hoess wrote a statement publicly asking the Polish nation for forgiveness...
    On the day of the execution, April 16, 1947, it was written in the district attorney’s record, “Rudolph Hoess was completely calm until the last moment and he expressed no wishes.”
A bit much, isn’t it?  It is indeed a bit much.

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[Note: The possible source for the above quote is perhaps Kolbe and the Kommandant - Two Worlds in Collision! by
Ladislaus Kluz, O.C.D. If you know of a different source, I’d appreciate your letting me know by emailing the Sitemaster —Thank you, Fr. Matthew Kelty, OCSO]