Their story cannot be perceived as a story of some good Christians living among bad Muslims because the monks loved the Muslim neighbours and were loved by them as well. In fact the group of the nineteen Algerian martyrs, among whom there are the seven Trappists, includes also Bishop Pierre Claverie. He was shot in front of his residence together with his Muslim driver.
My Dear Sisters and Brothers! The Second Reading for this Eucharist brings to our focus the cross. St Paul wrote: ‘While the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, here we are preaching a crucified Christ.’ This preaching is not limited to a single event from the Good Friday two thousand years ago when the Son of God was crucified for us and for our salvation. To preach a crucified Christ one must live and love the way Jesus did. His life and love was not an investment only into those who appreciated it but it was offered to all.
Most likely we are not exposed to such extremes like the Algerian martyrs. However as Paul speaks about the foolishness and weakness of the cross we need to look around and to identify the people whom we choose not to love. We may have valid reasons not to love them but it is not the way of the Lord. It does make sense according to the standards of this world but these standards are not Jesus’.
That standard of giving oneself to others is captured in the First Reading where the Ten Commandments were proclaimed to us as they were proclaimed to the People of Israel who had just experienced the liberation from the Egyptian slavery. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that: ‘The gift of the Commandments is the gift of God himself and his holy will. In making his will known, God reveals himself to his people.’ The Ten Commandments are a blessing for us as they enable us to preserve our liberty in Jesus Christ. They protect us from sacrificing others, their temporal and eternal life, for our sake. Furthermore the Ten Commandments give us a grace to live fully the foolishness and weakness of the cross so that the glory of the Resurrection could be manifested in us.
In a scene from ‘Of Gods and Men’ Fr Christian stops a band of gunmen from entering the monastery which was a place of peace. Then the leader of the band points his rifle at the monk and says: ‘You have no choice.’ The answer of the priest was profoundly Scriptural: ‘I always have a choice.’
My Dear fellow Believers! As you walk out of this church take with you the words of Fr Christian: ‘I always have a choice.’ When you meet or think of the people you have your ‘valid’ reasons’ not to love say those words of a priest martyr from Algeria: ‘I always a have a choice.’