Monday, August 27, 2007

Mass for Life

Monday, August 27, Monseñor Luis Alfonso Santos celebrated a Mass for Life in the park in front of the cathedral, with 16 priests, two deacons, and hundreds of people, mostly from rural villages. ( A sympathetic news source said there were 3000 present for the Mass.) The Mass coincided with a nation-wide mobilization of civic groups united in the National Coordination of Popular Resistance. They are taking to the streets with their concerns about mining, deforestation, water, corruption, and poverty.

Here the bishop and the priests decided to celebrate a Mass for life. It was supposed to start at 9:00 AM but didn’t begin until about 10:30. This was due in part to the fact that some communities had a hard time getting there. The Mass lasted until 1:30 PM - three hours, standing!

At the beginning of Mass, Bishop Santos provided a framework for this Eucharist – the concern for the land God has given us. He spoke of the fears that the free trade agreements make it easier for outsiders to come in and buy up land and exploit the land. His continuing concern about foreign mining interests who have received mining concerns, almost as a gift, and contaminate the land. He spoke about his concern for the forests and advised the campesinos to learn to use organic fertilizer and to stop the practice of burning the land before planting.

We are here in this Mass, he said, because God is a God of justice. Our hope is in God; we don’t put any hope in the political parties, he continued which impose laws on the people and put the rich and representatives of the mining interests in powerful political positions. They poor need to organize themselves in civic association. They cannot put their trust in political parties. He referred to the hymn from the Misa Salvadoreña: “ Cuando el pobre crea en el pobre” whose refrain, loosely translated says: “When the poor believe in the poor, they we will be able to sing freedom; when the poor believe in the poor, we will build community.” He passionately asked “¿Hasta cuando?” – “How much longer will the poor endure this?”

The Mass proceeded with appropriate readings: the story of creation in Genesis 1, the heavenly city Jerusalem in Revelation 21, and one of the Gospels where Jesus ask, “What does it profit to gain the whole world and lose your soul?”

At the end of Mass, before the blessing, the bishop spoke again and urged the people to defend what is ours – mentioning especially the forests and the sources of water.

It was a long Mass but the people were attentive, especially when the bishop spoke. he was warmly applauded, especially when he alluded to the false charges that have been made against him.

The situation here is grave – but there are people trying to change the society. The poverty is immense but there are small efforts being made. Experiencing this helps me reaffirm my commitment to be here, to be I in some way – of service to those most in need. In this way, I pray and work that the Kingdom of God may come.

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