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February 25, 2018

One of my favorite short stories in high school was “You Must Live” (“Anh Phai Song”, by Khai Hung).  It was at the beginning of a rainy season.  The waters of the river were rising and so tumultuous. Tree trunks and dead branches, torn away from the forest, floated adrift in the middle of a current of reddish water and formed like a continuous chain of small canoes slipping at full speed toward an unknown destination.  The husband and wife thought about picking up some of those woods for the market. It would help them get a little cash to buy food for their hungry children.  They took a risk.  They brought their boat to the middle of the river. An hour later, their boat was almost full of wooden pieces. As they got ready to return to the bank, the rain began to fall. Their boat was filled with water, and soon sank in the water.  Holding firm to her husband’s arm they tried to swim to the shore, but it seemed impossible.  The torrents were so fierce.  They struggled and struggled.  At that point, the wife recalled their three little children at home.  They could not survive without a parent.  She yelled at her husband’s ear, “You must live.”  The husband suddenly felt lighter. His wife had quietly taken the decision to let go off her husband. She let herself be taken into the deep waters to free her husband so that he could swim back to the riverbank.

The image of Isaac carrying the wood for his own offering in the Book of Genesis (22: 1-18) foreshadowed the action of Jesus, who carried the cross for his sacrifice so that we might avoid eternal death.  He died so that we may live.  The sacrificial ram, caught in a thicket by its horns, recalled the head of Jesus crowned with thorns. The statement of St. Paul in the second Reading this Sunday should be a topic for our meditation this week: “If God is for us, who is against us?  He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will not with him also give us everything else? (Romans 8: 31). Even though his sacrifice is the ultimate tragedy, the killing of God, it does not end in sadness. Jesus might not get an eleventh hour switch like Isaac, but instead he accomplished something much greater. Through his death, he defeated death. He rose again to die no more. All of us are invited to participate in his sacrificial death, but also to participate in his resurrection.