March 16-22, 2006
An Easter Miracle
By Father Michael Bassano,MM/ SUN contributing writer
Syracuse Priest Encounters the Risen Christ in Thailand
THAILAND — Happy Easter in the Risen Jesus. Our life is a marvelous, wondrous gift from God that makes us one with all living beings in the universe. The human spirit touched by God is so resilient that we can overcome the challenges that face us and rise to new life. That for me is what the essence of Easter is all about. It is a positive willingness deep within our hearts where God dwells that life has meaning and is worthy to be lived with courage. I came to realize this in the life of one young man named Bancha.
When Bancha came to our Buddhist temple in Lopburi which cares for people struggling to live with HIV/Aids he was just 28 years old. He was frail, weak and unable to walk. As he lay on his bed, Bancha would clutch the photos of his nine year old son and cry tears of sadness that he would never be able to see his family again. He was giving up on life, thinking that he had come to the temple to die. One day as I was talking to him, Bancha showed me the photo of his son and I told him what a handsome boy he had, just as handsome as the father. He smiled through the tears. I tried to convince Bancha to keep living for his son, wife and family who love him. Most importantly, I tried to help him understand that those he loves live in his heart and that he must keep struggling to get better to be able to return home and be with them.
As time went on Bancha began to eat again, grew stronger and even struggled to walk again. After a few months he had improved so much that he was able to take the special anti retro viral medicine (ARV) to keep improving his health even though he can never be cured from HIV/Aids. As he gradually gained more and more strength, he was able to walk without any problem, put on more weight, and the smile returned to his face. Bancha was ready to live again with confidence and hope. He recently left the temple in good health and before returning home decided to get a small job working at a gas station to make some money for himself and his family. When the gas station owner found out that he had HIV/Aids he was told he could no longer work there. Such is the stigma, fear and discrimination that continue to exist in Thailand as well as in other countries around the world.
Bancha then decided to go to Bangkok to find a job as a security guard as some of his other friends had done. He did not write on the application form that he had any illness for fear of further discrimination. Since Bancha looks healthy and takes his medicine regularly, he had no problem getting the job where he continues to work. He hopes to be reunited with his family shortly. Upon receiving his first monthly pay check, Bancha made a special trip back to the temple in Lopburi to thankfully treat me and his friends to a meal at the store on the temple grounds. He also made a visit to the Assumption Cathedral Church at our 10:00 a.m. English Mass where I was with all the other Maryknoll Missioners. It was Easter Sunday 2005. Bancha, as a Buddhist, said he could not understand what was being said but he loved the singing, prayerfulness and beauty of the place. Most of all he came to give thanks for the new life he had received. We then invited him out to a buffet lunch with all of us and I introduced him as “an Easter miracle.”
In this Easter season, I also give thanks for the Risen life of Jesus in us that never ends. May we live in constant wonder and always be surprised by what happens when we share our lives in the service of others.