Sunday, November 21, 2010

Christ the King – life and death

The solemnity of Christ the King – the last Sunday of the Catholic church year – seems to be a big celebration here in Honduras. I think it has a lot to do with celebrating Christ as King and Ruler – the one in charge – but also with showing one’s identity as a Catholic. (Some might find this a little triumphalistic, but it’s more than that.) It’s also the day the church here celebrates Delegates of the Word, those who lead the celebrations of the Word in their villages.

Some parishes here have one big Mass where all the villages are invited. I’ve been to three such celebrations of the parish of Dulce Nombre de María where I help – all in the rural village of Candelaria.

For me it is always a chance to see people I haven’t seen for a while. This year is was especially so because I haven’t been out to the villages of the parish for almost six weeks, due to visits to the US and some work. So there were many hugs and conversations.

But this year the celebration had a somber note. Late Saturday, Modesto Melgar, a delegate of the Word in Agua Buena who has worked with the church for about seventeen years was assasinated. He was killed, it appears, by a hired assassin, who also seriously wounded two girls. The motive is unknown, but people have identified the vehicle and the license plate.

The coffin was brought onto the field in front of the altar and various times during the Mass it was incensed, sprinkled with holy water, and prayed over.

In his homily the pastor, Padre Efraín Romero, described this as an example of the ungovernability found here in Honduras. Sure, there are laws on the books, but there is little hope that justice will be done. He castigated the system, as well as ineffective or corrupt officials who fail to bring criminals to justice. Padre Efraín also spoke of the need to pardon – and the need for assassins to repent and seek forgiveness.

But he also presented a message of hope – “This blood [shed by Modesto] will provide new shoots of more convinced Christians,” he said, echoing the saying that “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.”

But the message was also one of hope in the resurrection.

After the prayers over the coffin, Padre Efraín led the congregation in a spirited medley of songs about resurrection and hope. Two particularly touched me:

The first has a very straightforward message of faith and hope”
“Yo tengo fe que todo cambiará, que triunfará por siempre el amor…”
"I have faith that all will change, that love will always triumph..”

The second is a little more pointed. The title is “Nadia hay tan grande como tu” – No one is as great as you are.” But the verses speak boldly:
“No con la fuerza, ni la violence es como el mundo cambiará.
Sólo el amor lo cambiará; solo lo salvará.
“No con las armas, ni con la Guerra es como el mundo cambiará…”
“Not by force nor by violence will the world be changed,
Only love will change it, will save it.
“No with weapons nor by war will the world be changed…”

This Sunday evening Modesto Melgar was laid to rest in the cemetery in the town of Dulce Nombre de Copán. I know that I’ve met him and talked with him several times, in parish council meetings and in parish formation sessions. But when I looked at his bandaged face in the casket window, I could not recognize him.

Another life has been lost here in Honduras – through violence. One of many.

But many more die each day, from hunger and the system that keeps the poor down.

Remembering Modesto, I pray that our church here in the diocese may be life-giving – preaching the Word, without faltering, without fear of risking ourselves; organizing the people to be active for the common good with a special effort for the poor and marginalized; and celebrating the Eucharist, the feast of Christ the King, a King who risked His life, but rose to save us and give us hope.

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