One hundred years ago, in a small province of China, a band of militia invaded and captured a group of 120 Christians—including 14-year old Anna Wang—and gave them the ultimatum: “The government has banned the practice of Western religions, including Catholicism. If you renounce your religion, you will be set free; if you refuse, we will kill you.”
Anna’s stepmother renounced the faith and thus was able to live. But Anna refused, saying: “I believe in God. I am a Christian. I do not renounce God.” The following morning she was led to her execution.
When her time came, after witnessing the horrible executions of others before her, Anna was kneeling in prayer. One of the soldiers gave her the option again: “Give up your faith and you will live.”
At first Anna was silent, but at the soldier’s insistence, she cried out: “I am a Christian. I prefer to die rather than give up my faith.” The soldier then cut off her right arm, and asked her again, “Do you deny your religion?” Anna was silent. When he struck her again, she was heard to say: “The door of heaven is open” and she lowered her head. With that, the executioner decapitated her. At the innocent age of 14, Anna Wang was martyred—killed for her faith.
I share this true, historically factual account because, clearly, Anna’s life and death—her faithful witness—proved that she clung to nothing else, so that she might cling to eternal life.
This is a little girl for whom Moses hoped. In our first reading, the prayer of our father in faith holds that the Spirit of God does truly rest in us all…not just the seventy, but the other two — Eldad and Medad, …and not just then, but even now! That One Spirit calls us all to the same destiny, to the same goal, to the same end: TO HAVE ETERNAL LIFE!
For Anna, nothing distracted her from her goal of eternal life, not even the fear of being persecuted and killed. Nothing was stronger than her desire for her goal. She followed Jesus, speaking and acting in His name…and she reached her goal.
And yet, in our own day, distractions abound. Listen to James in our second reading and recognize yourself in his warning. “Let not wealth stand in your way.” And in Jesus’ own imagery, let nothing else (your eyes which can covet the goods of others, your hands which can steal the blessings from others, your feet which can walk in the way of evil)…let nothing of this life and this body stand in the way of reaching your goal.
What is that goal? What is the purpose of your life? To love God with all your being so as to dwell with Him now and forever.
In this eucharist, we share in the banquet Christ has prepared for all those who are His faithful people. By our own birth, God has blessed each of us with the Holy Spirit. That Spirit longs for…and guides us to…life lived for God, here and now…and forever in the life to come.
- Anna Wang was put to the test in a unique way.
- She lost nothing while gaining everything.
- Today, we are being tested in our own unique way by the struggles and challenges life places before us.
- Remember your goal.
- Let nothing stand in your way.
- Rejoice and be glad, yours is the kingdom of God!