The cross is the theme this week. Last Friday the Church celebrated the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This Sunday, the 24th in Ordinary Time, Jesus says, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me" (Mk 8:34). The first reading from Isaiah 50 we also read on Palm Sunday and later this week on Thursday we will celebrate the feast day of the martyrs Andrew Kim Tae-gon and Paul Chong Ha-sang. A word or two on these Korean saints, as their stories are inspiring and exemplify the Gospel.
Catholicism did not enter Korea until 1592. Like Japan, the nation was isolated and sealed off from foreign contact. Somehow Catholic literature from China, brought there by Jesuit missionaries, found its way into the peninsula. The native Koreans who read the material were so impressed they converted. When a Chinese priest at last visited Korea in the late 1700s, he found nearly 4,000 Catholics. Remember, these Catholics had never seen a priest.