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March 20, 2016

A priest, one of my teachers, was put in a re-education camp by the new communist government because of his crime: being an assistant to a foreign pastor in a certain parish.  Every day, he labored hard along with other prisoners.  The day’s work had ended; the tools were being counted as usual.  As the party was about to be dismissed, a guard shouted that a shovel was missing.  He insisted that someone had stolen it to sell it for food.  Striding up and down before the men, he ranted and denounced them for their wickedness and their ingratitude to the government.

As he raved, he worked himself up into a paranoid fury.  Screaming in broken words, he demanded that the guilty one step forward to take his punishment.  No one moved; the guard’s rage reached the heights of violence.  “All die! All die!” he shrieked.

To show that he meant what he said, he cocked his rifle, put it on his shoulder and looked down the sights, ready to fire at the first man at the end of the line.  At that moment our young priest stepped forward, stood stiffly at attention and said calmly, “I did it.”

The guard unleashed all his whipped-up hate; he kicked the helpless prisoner and beat him with his fists.  Still the priest stood rigidly at attention, with the blood streaming down his face.  His silence goaded the guard to excess rage.  Seizing his rifle by the barrel, he lifted it high over his head and, with a final howl, brought it down to the skull of the priest, who sank limply to the ground and did not move a bit.  Although it was perfectly clear that he was dead, the guard continued to beat him and stopped only when he was exhausted.

The other prisoners picked up their friend’s body, shouldered their tools and marched back to the camp with tears in their eyes and fear in their hearts.  When the tools were counted again at the guardhouse, no shovel was missing!

In this Holy Week we have the opportunity to walk with Christ.  We can accompany the Lord on his journey and experience the love of God which so filled and inspired Christ.  His death is NOT a punishment of our sins or a way to satisfy the wrath of God.  It is a revelation of God’s love for us.  As we participate in these final events in Christ's life, we will hear God’s answer when we ask him: "How much do you love me?"  For when we see Christ open his arms on the Cross, God says to us: "This much".  God's love is a love which is total, unconditional and costly.  May we prove our loyalty and love to Christ, as did the priest in our story, not by a martyrdom death, but a daily devotion, offerings and sacrifices.  That priest took to his heart the word of the Lord, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends(Jn. 15: 13).I pray that every one of us will set aside some minutes a day to reflect on these mysteries.  And if you have never been at our beautiful Easter Vigil Celebration, please come and you won’t be disappointed, I promise.