March 25, 2018
The Revolution took place 4 decades ago in Vietnam. It was an uprising largely against foreigners and Vietnamese Christians. The revolutionaries captured a Catholic school. They blocked all the gates but one. On the ground in front of that gate they laid a big cross. Anyone who trampled on that cross could go free. Anyone who walked around it would be shot to death.
The first 7 students trampled on the cross and went free. The eighth, a girl in her early teens, knelt before the cross, walked respectfully around it and was shot immediately. All the rest of the hundred students followed her example. Many were killed, but not all. Some survived to witness the story. Over 100, 000 people chose death rather than deny their Master in the history of Vietnam.
Our Christian life is often compared to a journey to the Lord. But it is not a journey on which we travel alone. Our Christian journey is a journey with Christ the whole way. We can say that just as Holy Week is the crisis point in Christ's journey so it is the crisis point in ours. It is the moment when we break the regularity to spend a little longer with him. We let ourselves be closer to him.
Today we see Jesus arriving with his friends in Jerusalem. They waved palms, symbols of triumph for the Jewish people. For them the leadership of Jesus was very real in the world. In the Passion Reading we see the week unfold. There is the intimacy of the Last Supper, the feet washing and the institution of the Eucharist. Here we can still meet Christ at the centre of our Christian community life. Good Friday is a day God’s love is revealed in the sufferings and death of Jesus on the cross.
Then there is the blackness of the absence of Christ. This absence is symbolized in our parish churches on Holy Saturday when all the normal furnishings required for worship are missing. In fact, there is no worship during the day-light hours of that day. After dark, the Vigil begins. From the new fire the light begins to travel, gradually illuminating the whole church building. And, as the Vigil continues, we move to the celebration of new life in Baptism and the first Mass of Easter, safe now in the knowledge that Christ has conquered death and is with us forever.
The Passion reading should bring about in us an awareness of the overwhelming love of God on our journey, and a sense of the need of deep repentance in our hearts. On Palm Sunday the disciples entered into Jerusalem with the Glory of Christ, but how soon they were to abandon him on Good Friday. It is easy to follow Christ when everything is going well but we are all too well aware how easily we deny him, not once, but many times on our journey. Today we shout with the crowd of that first Palm Sunday: “Hosanna!” which means: “Save, we pray.” May we prove our loyalty to Christ, as did those students, not by a martyrdom death, but a daily devotion, offerings and sacrifices. I wish that every one of us will spend more time with the Lord through all worshipping celebrations of his Holy Week. May God bless you!