During the early part of the last century, the bishop of Paris, with Notre Dame Cathedral as his cathedral church, was a great evangelizer. He tried to reach out to unbelievers, scoffers, and cynics. He liked to tell the story of a young man who would stand outside the cathedral and shout derogatory slogans at the people entering to worship. He would call them fools and other insulting names. The people tried to ignore him but it was difficult.
One day the parish priest went outside to confront the young man, much to the distress of the parishioners. The young man ranted and raved against everything the priest told him. Finally, he addressed the young scoffer by saying, “Look, let’s get this over with once and for all. I’m going to dare you to do something and I bet you can’t do it.” And of course the young man shot back, “I can do anything you propose, you white-robed wimp!”
“Fine,” said the priest. “All I ask you to do is to come into the sanctuary with me. I want you to stare at the figure of Christ, and I want you to scream at the very top of your lungs, as loudly as you can. ‘Christ died on the cross for me and I don’t care one bit.’” So the young man went into the sanctuary, and looking at the figure, screamed as loud as he could, “Christ died on the cross for me and I don’t care one bit.” The priest said, “Very good. Now, do it again.” And again the young man screamed, with a little hesitancy, “Christ died on the cross for me and I don’t care one bit.” “You’re almost done now,” said the priest. “One more time.” The young man raised his fist, kept looking at the statue, but the words wouldn’t come. He just could not look at the face of Christ and say it anymore.
The real punch line came when, after he told the story, the bishop said, “I was that young man. That young man, that defiant young man was me. I thought I didn’t need God but found out that I did.” As we enter this Holy Week on this Passion Sunday, we will look at the Cross repeatedly. Through the liturgies of this week we emphasize this central fact of our salvation. Let us allow it to overshadow all we do and all we are. May this Holy Week bring us to a realization that Christ truly died on the cross for each one of us – and continues suffering for each of us as He dwells in us. May this realization bring us to Easter resurrection.