Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Rev Ev has passed to the Lord

Father Ev Hemann, died on Tuesday, April 24, at 7:50 pm, after a year long bout with pancreatic cancer.

He was pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Church from 1993 to 2009. With his encouragement I moved on from St. Thomas to begin my ministry here in Honduras.

Fr. Ev with Padre Efraín Romero of Dulce Nombre de María parish, Honduras

Ev was a people person. He loved to gather people around him for meals. He loved good food and good wine. He especially enjoyed interacting with students, often in a joking manner.

He loved liturgy. His celebrations of the Sacred Triduum were marvelous, especially the joy with which he baptized the elect in St. Thomas’ baptismal pool.

Fr. Ev baptism at an Easter vigil - full immersion!

One thing I remember well is how he helped me bid goodbye to my father. I got home from the church office on September 15, 1999, and found that my father had just died.

I called the church office and Ev came over. We talked a bit and another friend came over. We prayed the evening prayer of the Office for the Dead at Dad’s bedside and then waited for the funeral home to come.

When they came, Ev explained to them how I had taken care of Dad at home for several years and so I was there when they moved his body from the bed to the gurney.

As dad’s body was moved from bed to gurney, his right arm came down and moved the sheet off his face. I couldn’t help but laugh - Dad’s last joke!  “You’re not really dead, are you, Dad?” I thought.

The funeral home people must have thought I was crazy, but Ev appreciated the joke, because he appreciated Dad’s humor.He made reference to it in his homily at Dad's funeral Mass.

Ev also had been the priest who received Dad into the Church one afternoon after Dad had returned home after one of this strokes. He was so tender with Dad on that occasion and so many others.

Ev was not perfect. We had our disagreements and at times I wished that he was more organized and less busy. But neither am I perfect. Thank God!

At Antioch retreat, fall 2006

Ev’s great love for people, his sense of humor, and his faith are inspiration for many, especially the hundreds of students whose lives he touched at Iowa State University.

But his dying was even more amazing. He learned of his cancer just before Holy Week in April 2011. He decided not to announce it until after Easter so as not to cast any shadows on the celebrations of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

During the year, he maintained communication with many people.

I got to see him in October when I visited Ames, Iowa. He had come down from Cedar Falls for ISU's Homecoming. We talked for about 45 minutes before he got tried. We shared many stories and he told his story.

Ev and I in October 2011 in Ames

What’s impressive is that he faced death with such tranquility. He was not afraid of death. I pray that I am as prepared for death as he was.

He maintained his joy because he maintained hope – not for a cure, but for the resurrection.

And so I pray for him the beautiful antiphon from the Mass of Christian Burial:

In paradisum deducant te angeli,
in tuo adventu suscipiant martires,
et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem.

Chorus angelorum te suscipiat
et cum Lazaro, quondam paupere
aeternam habeas requiem.

May the angels lead you into paradise.
May the martyrs receive you as you come
and lead you into the holy city Jerusalem.

May the choir of angels receive you
and, with Lazarus who was at one time poor,
may you have eternal rest.

Rest in peace, Ev – and may your memory keep us firm in faith, joyful in hope, and loving God and everyone.

Also, Father Ev, together with two of his brothers, were pilots. In fact Ev taught many people to fly. And so now maybe the most appropriate song for Ev is “Fly away, fly away to Jesus.”

For more on Ev:

Here’s a video on him made by a friend on You-Tube: click here.

There was a great article in the Des Moines Register on Fr. Ev on Easter, with a video which can be found here.

You can also find his personal reflections and updates on his blog here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Loaves and fishes

Sometimes a closer look at a Gospel text – together with a change of context – makes the Scripture message come alive.

Today’s Gospel is an example. I read the commentary in  Bible Diary 2012 and then went to Dulce Nombre where the Parish Council meeting began with a reading and discussion of the Gospel.

Today’s Gospel of John’s account of the multiplication of the loves and fishes (John 6: 1-15) has some very suggestive elements:

• Jesus looks at the people and wants to help. Our God is a compassionate God. He asks his disciples to feed them.

• We don’t have the money to buy, say the apostles.
“Two hundred days' wages worth of food would not be enough…”
Scarcity and money are the prevailing attitudes of the apostles.

• But there’s this little boy with two fish and five barley loaves.
"There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;
A little boy – not one of the five thousand guys there, but an insignificant kid.

• Barley loaves:
Yuck; it's not wheat. It’s tough. It’s like tortillas made of sorghum, I suggested.

• “What good are these for so many?”
Again the apostles think in terms of scarcity: this can be enough?

• Jesus has the people recline – about five thousand men, and God knows how many women and children. And it was a kid who shared the bread and fish.

•And Jesus “gave them as much as they wanted.”
Enough for everyone.

•Gather the leftovers:-twelve baskets full
"Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted."
 Don't waste: share.

• Let’s make him king:
The people wanted to take him by force and make him king.
Jesus resisted these efforts. With him as king the people would have everything they needed for free – even if was only barley bread and fish. As some one suggested at the Parish Council meeting they’d be dependent on Jesus the king to supply their [perceived] needs.

God works through little things – little kids and a few loaves and fish – and does marvels. But humans either are stuck in their emphases on scarcity or they want a miracle worker – a political savior – who will make everything right, without their effort, without their meager contribution.

Is this a parable for today?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Almost in Guatemala - visiting the hinterlands

I saw Guatemala yesterday – not far from the community of San José de la Frontera in the municipality of Florida in Copán, Honduras. I could even make out the Rio Montagua in Guatemala. (It was, however, too hazy to get a decent picture.)

San José de La Frontera is one of the sites of Caritas’ program for mothers and children under two. The program, financed by the World Bank and Catholic Relief Services and coordinated with the Honduran Health Ministry, monitors the health of infants in rural villages with the help of trained local volunteers. I went with the coordinator of the zone, saw the work of the Caritas employee working in the area, and listened to the women in the community.

It was a long day. I left Santa Rosa de Copán at 6 am. We picked up Ruth,  the regional coordinator, in La Entrada and then went to the Florida municipal health center to pick up vaccines to take to a rural clinic. We left the vaccines at the clinic in San Lorenzo Techín and then backtracked to the turn off to San José.

The trip was, to put it mildly, interesting.

The terrain was largely mountainous, with vast areas which had been deforested and which were now used for grazing cattle. Other areas were forested or planted with coffee.  The views were at times breath-taking, both in terms of the beauty and the devastation.


About a kilometer before the village of El Espíritu we rounded a curve and found four pickups stopped there, with a good number of highly armed men. We passed through without a problem.

Within minutes we passed on the outskirts of El Espíritu, once a quiet village, now with some very large houses/compounds. It is reportedly the center of one of the drug-trafficking cartels in Honduras.

A few kilometers up the road we entered the village of Berlín. One of the first site was 11 or twelve Honduran soldiers, with weapons, walking on the road. In the village we noted a few gringos. We stopped and I talked briefly with the leader. He has been in Honduras for years working with the evangelical bilingual school in La Entrada. He had a group with him from all over the US.

Just outside Berlin, I saw a Caterpillar road grader on the top of a hill, clearing the site.  “What for?” I wondered. Maybe, I suggested for a helicopter pad.

rocks, mud, and even more

We passed through several other villages, over some of the worst roads I’ve seen in Honduras. Lots of rocks in some places, deep ruts in others.

These women and children had a better idea than a car - horses!

We passed by a public health center in La Elencia. An hour later we arrived in San José de la Frontera. Later I found out that people who want to get to the clinic from San José have to leave at 4 am in the morning, walk up to a nearby village and then get a ride to the clinic, perhaps arriving about 7 am!

San José has about 30 households, with lots of kids. The Caritas worker was with the two village monitors weighing the thirteen infants under two. I watched, talked with people, and even took a turn grinding coffee.

All the mothers had brought their kids, as opposed to some areas where many don’t come to the meetings. Also, only three of the thirteen infants were underweight. A few appeared even chubby! In some other villages in the area about half the infants are underweight. However, this is one of the villages where there has been an infant death.

Weighing the infants
After the weighing was finished, there was a meeting with the women. Ruth had hoped that some other village leaders would have come but communication is so difficult there (at times no cell phone signal) that she had been unable to communicate with them.

Nestor explaining the statistics of the last three months

The community identified a number of problems: the distance from the local health center, the problems of transportation to the health center – including the cost (25 lempiras [about $1.30] each way), the lack of a kindergarten teacher, and more.

It was sad to hear there was no working kindergarten. The former teacher had married and decided not to continue teaching. Another person had declined. Yet there was a young woman with a small baby who was willing to do some teaching. Unfortunately she only has a third grade education. However, the president of the parents’ school organization was there and she will try to get the grade school teacher to push the authorities so that this woman can begin to work with the kinds.

Above all, I saw that the community and the women need to work on organizing themselves better. Earlier a committee had been formed but  it had not met. In addition, there was a lot of internal criticism. At times, I think, the poor fail to realize the good that they can do and, abetted by the discrimination against them, turn to criticizing each other.

I noted that most of the houses were of wooden planks. Someone explained to me that the rocky soil cannot be used for making adobe.

I noted water and some latrines, but I don’t know the quality of the water. My guess is that poor water contributes to the health problems, especially children with diarrhea.

I was there to see what the work was as well as to look at the situation of the community. However, I felt at least a few times uncomfortable. The coordinator had spoken of how Caritas could help them work on some proposals for projects. That is not totally true. And so I tried to say that they are the ones who need to develop projects; they need to seek support, especially with municipal authorities; they need to plan and carry out projects in the their communities.

So many times here in Honduras people come with projects for people – well meaning projects but the initiative doesn’t come form the people. Sometimes this leads to projects that have no follow up. The coordinator noted a latrine project that was not well-thought through; within a few months the latrines were being used to house chickens!

I was especially uncomfortable being someone from outside, from the Untied States. I felt that at least one woman was pushing for me to find funds to do something for the community. I kept repeating that I cannot make plans for their community’s development. They have to do it themselves.

I hope the message got through. I hope they begin to work on ways they can help improve their community. As a way to motivate them I referred to the first reading from last Sunday’s lectionary, Acts 4: 32-35:
The multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul…there was no one poor among them.
I urged them to try to live this in their community.

Before we left the coordinator said that I would return. I said that I wouldn’t try to return unless the committee had gotten together and done some planning.

I was very uneasy, especially when she wanted me to set a date. By conditioning a possible visit to the community’s work, I hope that I reinforced the idea that the community will not improve unless they work together to do this.

I was glad to get to the community, to see the efforts being made. I was, as you can tell, saddened by the poverty as well as the attitude of looking for someone outside to “solve” the problems.

I hope that by calling them to work together, to demand the attention of government authorities, and to live the Gospel I helped them to see themselves as people who can do something.

Help, yes; solving others’ problems, no.

Working together, encouraging and accompanying their processes, definitely.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Working alongside the poor

As part of my time with Caritas, I often get a chance to participate in training sessions. This past Thursday and Friday two trainers came to lead one of four workshops  on Community Management to Reduce the Risk of Disasters, Gestión Comunitaria de la Reducción de Riesgos de Disastres (GCRRD).

Caritas of the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán has been using this methodology in its program with three communities on Management of the Reduction of Disasters. It will now be using it with six different communities. I have visited the first three villages several times and have been fascinated by the process.

The process, which I think was first developed in the Philippines, places the communities as the protagonists of the whole process. They are the ones who do the analysis of the community’s risks and needs; they are the ones who develop the plans for development of the community as well as for dealing with emergencies. Great faith is placed in the people of the communities.

In this the role of the sponsoring organizations as well as the staff persons is to facilitate a process, not to lead it.

Denaly and Neftalí working on the distinction of Management processes
Many programs come in with pre-packaged programs and place the final decisions in the hands of people outside the communities. In my mind, this means that they do not really value the people of the communities and their ideas and capabilities. Though they may say that their work is based in the communities, these programs often presume that they have the answers and look for lots of concrete results.

One very interesting part of the workshop dealt with how one enters into a community to initiate a program or process.

What really interested me, though, was working on how to approach the community and identify the risk. We spoke of four different ways. Overnight we had homework: what other ways were there of approaching the community and beginning the process of identifying the risk.

I briefly put together the four stages of the process of affirmative inquiry which I’ve tried to use in one community. The next morning it was the first one chosen to be explained, because it was so different.

affirmative inquiry

It shares a lot with the methodology of GCRRD, since it starts with the successes of the community and places the community are the forefront of the process. Sharing successes helps give people  sense that they have done something and can work to improve their communities. Dreaming the future of the community – “What do we want to be in five years? – stirs the imagination. Then the choosing and design of a project is followed by the implementation of a project.

After this, we worked in four groups on analyzing a risk. It was a useful practice, though we generally chose risks that were too abstract.

The next workshop is in early May. For that meeting we have to approach  community and begin to identify a risk situation.

Hipólito, Manuel, and Denys preparing to explain their analysis of risk.

But in all this I see the continuing need to have the people of the communities at the forefront of the process.

It is so easy to have an idea and try to have it implemented. It is harder but more helpful to have the people take the lead.

In so many ways this fits with my continuing struggle to accompany the people and help them in ways that respect their wisdom and their capabilities.

So many come here to Honduras with their plans and dreams. They sometimes don’t take the time to see what the Honduran people do in the midst of great poverty and systematic injustice.

If they would just take the time, they might learn from the people here.

All too often they are like the Sanhedrin who arrested Peter and John after the cripple at the Beautiful Gate was healed.

“Observing the boldness of Peter and John and perceiving them to be uneducated (γράμματοί) and untrained (ἰδιῶται), they were amazed…” (Acts 4, 13).

As so often in the Christian scriptures, the wisdom of the poor and simple is preferred to the wisdom of the powerful.

That is the beauty of the process of GCRRD.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Easter in El Zapote de Santa Rosa

Felices Pascuas de la Resurrección.

This morning I woke up to  Handel's Hallelujah chorus. What a way to begin the morning of Easter Sunday.

I have been spending the Triduum in the village of El Zapote in the Dulce Nombre parish. I worked with the pastoral workers here preparing the services.

Here, as opposed to some place in the parish, the services are simple – the Holy Thursday service, the Stations of the Cross on Friday morning, the Good Friday service with the veneration of the Cross, and the Easter Vigil. Some places have three of four more processions  but this is fine with me, concentrating on the liturgy.

I may write more later this week but I wanted to share some thoughts and photos.

The services were well-attended with more than 200 in the Holy Thursday and Good Friday services, about 160 in the Stations and about 150 in the Easter Vigil.

On Holy Thursday, I washed the feet of 12 kids – some of whom had dirty feet, though hidden in their rubber boots.

After the service we had adoration of the Eucharist until 8:30. Since this is the first Holy Thursday they have had the Eucharist in their community I suggested that we have adoration, as a way of watching and praying with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was a new idea but well-received. I placed the ciborium at the foot of a large Cross on a side altar.

At about 8:15 we closed adoration with a very songs and prayer. 

The Stations were prayed on the road. The meditations from a national source of reflections for Lent were very strong, with a justice message, recalling among others the martyred bishops of Central America – Monseñor Oscar Romero of El Salvador, and Monseñor Juan Gerardi of Guatemala. At each Station they knelt in the road.

We began the Easter Vigil in the dark outside the church. And it was really dark since the village does not have electricity. A file of dry twigs was ready. Though it took a few minutes to get it lighted, it seem blazed and we drew back from the flames and the heat. 

The Easter fire

I love the Easter Vigil
       The liturgy of Light – I  sang a Spanish version of the Exultet .
       The Liturgy of the Word – We used all the readings.
       The Liturgy of Baptism promises – We sang the Litany of the Saints, we renewed our Baptismal promises, and I sprinkled them liberally with water. I was in turn sprinkled with a lot of water.
        Finally, the Liturgy of Communion. This community is blessed to have the Eucharist in the tabernacle and a Communion minister.

This morning there’s another service and then lunch with two Dubuque Franciscan sisters in nearby Gracias, Lempira.

A blessed Holy Week it has been – even though I had some stomach problems and hives, they seem as nothing in the light of what we have celebrated this week.

UPDATE: I never made it to Gracias. The car wouldn't start. After push starting it I reached Santa Rosa. Then I thought I might be able to get to Gracias, but on the way - though gratefully in Santa Rosa - the car stalled and wouldn't start. Oh well, tomorrow it's time to get the car to the mechanic, probably wiring or mechanical problems, since the battery is well charged.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The option for the poor

How does one speak to the poor about the preferential option for the poor?

Monday and Tuesday of Holy Week we had a retreat for catechists. Padre Efraín wanted to develop the spirituality which is behind the diocese’s Third Pastoral Plan. He, Padre Henry, and I divided up six themes. I got the Kingdom of God and the Option for the Poor.

I used the beatitudes as the framework to understand the Kingdom of God, but what could I say to these catechists who are poor on the option for the poor.

I recalled that the poor here in Honduras are not only treated poorly but they also are looked down upon. A few years ago the President of Congress called them “gente del monte” – the Honduran equivalent of hillbillies or hicks. When I first cam e here I heard a professional in Santa Rosa complaint hat the priests didn’t understand professionals since the priests mostly came from the campo, the countryside. And there are those who continually bring up the low level of education of the people and therefore consider campesinos all too gullible. It is no wonder that one finds low self-esteem among many in the countryside, but it is – in great part, I believe -  due to the social and class biases of the country.

So, I decided that I would try to help the participants in the retreat see what the option for the poor means for them: God has opted for the poor and is with them, at their side.

I chose three scripture passages but, as I was about to begin my presentation Monday afternoon, I decided to begin with a hymn, “Vos sos el Dios de los pobres,” a hymn that comes from Nicaragua. I didn’t know if they’d all know it but when they sang it forcefully. A You-Tube video can be found here.

After we sang it, we discussed the hymn.

The refrain is:
Vos sos el Dios de los pobres,
el Dios humano y sencillo,
el Dios que suda en el calle;
el Dios de rostro curtido;
por eso es que te hablo yo,
así como habla mi pueblo,
porque sos el Dios obrero,
el Cristo trabajador.
You are the God of the poor, 
a humble and simple God, 
a God  who sweats in the street, 
with a leathery face.
Thus I speak with you 
as I speak with my people, 
because you are the God 
who is a worker, Christ the worker.
We talked how Jesus was a worker who sweated, working and getting dirty. Today he would wear leather work gloves and overalls, as the hymn puts it in one of the verses.

What is more pointed, we noted, is the use of “vos” to address God.“Vos” is used here in Central America for close friends and children. God is one of us, with us.

Then I shared the three readings I had chosen:

Matthew 11: 25:
At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to the simple."
2 Corinthians 8: 9:
For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich.
1 Corinthians 1: 27-29
God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.
 I mentioned that there are poor who have the mentality of the rich but the poor who have the spirit of the poor Christ are those who can teach us who are not rich.

I felt strange talking about the option for the poor since I could not use “we” poor. I am not in any way poor like these people.

We who are “rich” often have blinders that prevent us from seeing the reality of the world – the injustice that is all around us. But our riches can also blind us to the wisdom of the poor, their great capabilities.

On Tuesday morning I woke up and read Vigils from Benedictine Daily Prayer which I pray almost every morning. The second reading was, to my surprise, 1 Corinthians 1:26 – 2:5.

Then, since it is the feast of the Franciscan Saint Benedict the Black, I read the Vigil readings for his feast. The first reading was 1 Corinthians 1: 26-31; 2: 1-2. 

Was God trying to tell me something?

For some unknown reason, I have had a devotion since the 1950s to St. Benedict the Black (also called St. Benedict the Moor) who lived from 1526 to 1589 . He was an African slave in Sicily who, after he was freed, joined a group of hermits. The group was disbanded and he joined the Franciscans. His deep holiness and his care for the poor earned him the confidence of his brother friars who chose him as their guardian, despite his illiteracy.

St. Benedict is another example of the wisdom of the poor who recognize their need for God and for the community to live as true children of God.

It is important I believe that the poor recognize their dignity, their knowledge, their wisdom, and their deep faith. Likewise, we who are rich need to listen to the poor – not just their needs, because they are more than their needs. But we need to listen to their wisdom – not only about their faith but about their life, their ways of sustaining their families, and more.

Listening to them can open us to the wisdom of God.

Years ago I had a key ring with the image of Monseñor Oscar Romero and the words, “De los humildes viene la luz.” – “From the humble comes the light.”

Let us walk in the light of the poor, at their sides, and listen to the wisdom of God that is revealed to them and through them.

The poor are our teachers. Let’s remember what is written in James 2:5:
Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him?

Santa Rosa Diocesan Stations 2012 - translations

Last Friday, March 30, 2012, more than 3000 people came to Santa Rosa de Copán to walk the Way of the Cross with Christ and other members of the diocese. The texts, which can be found in Spanish here, relate the Stations to the lives of the people here in Honduras. Photos from this year's Way of the Cross and from other years can be found here. A short blog entry with some photos can be found here.

I have translated part of these stations and offer them for your reflection.

THEME: Corruption and impunity
Pilate recognizes that Jesus is innocent and that they are handing him over because of envy. He even tries to not condemn him to death. But, because he fears that they will inform Cesar in Roma and so that he doesn’t find himself out of sorts with him, he ends up condemning Jesus to death; he thus is an accomplice with the corruption of the Jewish leaders who prefer their personal benefit to the justice to which Jesus has the right. This criminal act is unpunished since no one can demand accountability form the powerful; they can buy or crush anyone who dares to do so.

 In all the many acts of corruption and impunity which happen each day in our country Jesus continues to be condemned to death; as it is said on the Gospel, “What you do to any of the little ones, that you do to me.”

THEME: the marginalized and excluded
The excluded and estranged of our society, according to our Diocesan Pastoral Plan, are, among many others,  the elderly, domestic workers, migrants, children and adults in the streets, those ills with HIV or AIDS, sex workers, the mentally ill, and women abandoned and exploited…

THEME: Alcoholism and drug addiction
Alcoholism and drug addiction constitute a problematic illness for public health. The risks and damages associated with them vary with the intensity of the addiction. Furthermore, one must take into account the personal variables as well as the degree of motivation, understanding, or experience in the consumption of alcohol or drugs and the specific properties of the alcohol or dug as well as the influence of adulterating elements.
What makes alcoholism or drug addiction a destructive addiction is that they harm oneself and others…. Alcoholism and drug addiction are not moral defects but illnesses which can be controlled.

THEME: Migration and the disintegration of the family
The phenomenon of migration has become the principal factor of  family disintegration in the emigrants’ countries, even more than divorce and other forms of family breakdown. The statistics tell us that in countries like Mexico, about 400,000 emigrate illegally to the US.
One of the major dramas that those who have to abandon where they live confront is that refugees are seen ever increasingly as “ a threat and a political nuisance.”
Experts consider that the increase in recent years of the flow of illegal immigrants to the US, over all of Mexican children and women, has contributed to the deepening of the disintegration of families which remain divided due to economic needs.
Jorge Bustamante, special recorder of the UN for the rights of refugees, has pointed out that “unfortunately the effect of migration to the US in regard to the integrity of the family is basically negative.”
• For all those separated because of immigration, those who left and those who have stayed behind, that the Lord with his grace may keep them always united.
•For those who manage great amounts of capital which they have gained from unjust businesses, that they recognize and repent of their crimes.
•For all those thrown about and beaten on the journey as victims of this reality, that they encounter generous and charitable persons and can receive help.

THEME: The environment
The reality:
Honduras has a richness of ecological diversity. There are 7,524 species of vascular plants, 718 species of birds, 228 species of mammals, 211 species of reptiles, 2500 species of insects; 53% of the land of Honduras is forested with broadleaf trees, conifers, and mangroves.
The biodiversity and the forests are under extreme pressure due to the deforestation by inappropriate management of the land and water. Each year 80,00 to 100,000 hectares are lost due to illegal lumbering, fires, and the enlargement of farming land.
The privatization of sources of water, the concessions of rivers, business of selling this vital liquid together with laws promote this business, the absence of a law agreed upon by the people to regulate mining and environmental contamination, and the deterioration of forest resources, the increase of private telephone companies which by installing their antennas in communities affect the environment and health….
Biblical text: Romans 8, 19-23
The message of the bible and the teaching of the church give us a reference whereby we can evaluate the problems which are posed between the human person and the environment. Initially one finds the pressure to exercise an absolute domination over things by humans, humans indifferent to the consideration of the moral order. The tendency toward a thoughtless exploitation of the resources of creation is a long historical and cultural process because of the powerful means of communication which promote the technological civilization. At times it appears that the environmental equilibrium has reached a critical point.
A conception has been spread and prevails that is deductive and understand the natural world in a mechanistic mode and understands development in a consumer mode;  these generate alienation among human beings.
The relation which the human person has with God determines the relation of the person with others and with the environment. In particular Benedictine and Franciscan spiritualities have testified this type of kinship of the human person with the environment, a kinship nourished by that spirituality, witnessing an attitude of respect for the reality of the whole world.

THEME: Builders of the new society
Data of the Reality
The State of Honduras is falling into an ungovernability; it is seen in the weakness of the state’s institutions which seem about to collapse; no one knows who is governing and the acts of corruption and the killings are each day more scandalous. In this agony of ungovernability there continue to be the politics of the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund trying to privatize the public services, such as education and health, and selling to the highest bidder the natural resources which belong to our people and thus condemning our future generations to backwardness and underdevelopment.
Biblical text: Isaiah 52: 13-15; 53: 1-3.
Sisters and brothers, Christ, the Head [of the Body/the Church] continues living his passion in His Body which is His people and the suffering [the passion] of the people is a continuation of the suffering [the passion] of Christ, because that which is done to one of his little brothers and sisters, that we do to Him (Matthew 25: 40).
In Honduras all of us need to need to approach Christ, especially the lay people who can assume public responsibilities to show that one can cleanse the image of a country subjected to international disgrace and to the lack of confidence of a people who do not see clearly a better world with those who govern us and who work in public offices. On the contrary, one can see that the acts of corruption are increasing, as well as the killing, the drug-trafficking, robberies, illiteracy and all the anti-values which disfigure the human person, the family, and society.
Nevertheless we congratulate the good politicians, public functionaries, doctors, teachers, farmers, housewives, and all those who by their work cleanse the face of Christ in the face of the people.
Today we recognize the face – disfigured, spit upon, slapped, in so many victims by the political, economic, and social powers who cause the repression, tortures, rapes, and organized terrorism. We also recognize you in the Christians who suffer martyrdom by some repressive or authoritarian regimes who deny some religious persons to fulfill their prophetic duties.

THEME: Drug-trafficking
Facts of the reality:
At the end of December last year, the Washington Post  published a report about Honduras based in Honduran information sources, and stated that “the major quantity of cocaine of the world is transported through Honduras, between 25 and 30 tons a year.” That has become one of the reasons that the percentages of crime have rocketed upward with 82.2 deaths for every 100,000 habitants, a statistic which puts us in the first place in the world in homicides per capita. 
Jesus commits us as disciples to be caretakers and builders of life, in a very special way in the middle of this spiral of violence, killings, and the commercialization of vice which dominates us and makes us nibble the dust of hopelessness, frustration, and despair.
If we are the Body of Christ and He is the head, all this violence and the domination of drug-trafficking and paid-killers which has us thrown down to the ground and this is for Jesus a suffering and a humiliation worse than his second fall on the way to Calvary.
But what Jesus feels and wants in the face of this suffering has to be for us like an order to fulfill, even if the consequence is to have to bear the cross. Christ became flesh in order that “we might have life and an abundant life, a life with quality.” Therefore, we have to reflect of these situations, seek solutions which will liberate us, to arrive at conclusions that we can make real and act accordingly.

THEME: The communications media

THEME: Repression and violence against women
Starting from the reality:
In the last few months there has been an alarming increase in the killings of women in the west of Honduras, including students, workers, campesinas and professionals belonging to different fields of social life. This reality of victims has unleashed within families a climate of insecurity, which has an influence in the practice of the church, schools, nongovernmental organizations, city halls, hospitals, local boards, health centers, cooperatives, and businesses.
Economic political, cultural, and religious inequalities close off the opportunities of the integral development of the woman within the family and in public life. This is a situation which places the women in a state of inferiority to men, which is one of the principle generating causes of violence against women.
Biblical text: Mark 14, 3-11.
Facing this reality, we see the attitude of Jesus Christ:
In the text we have heard, Jesus Christ appears very close to a woman, breaking the discrimination against women of his time.
For Jesus Christ, women are worth the same as men; he values the role of women in the bible: Ruth, Esther, Judith, Mary mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and so on and overcame the cultural model which marginalize the woman. Therefore, this demands a change of mentality in those who consider the woman inferior to man, justifying and legitimating violence, denying them the active participation in the great decisions of life.
In prayer we commit ourselves:
•A change of mentality of parents in regard to the education of their daughters, providing whole hearted support so they can attain their educational goals, in short, medium or long range.
•Change of attitudes of those who exercise civil and church power to provide women with opportunities in public offices.
•To deepen in the church base communities the role of women in society.
•To integrate in pastoral councils – in the diocese, the deaneries, parishes, zones, sectors and communities – the significant presence of the women.
•To organize and integrate in materials for religious education the practice of Jesus Christ, overcoming this every attitude which leads to minimize the role of women.

THEME: Privatization
Today Jesus is still being striped of his garments. He is stripped when his right to dignity is taken away and is crushed underfoot in a society without control, of consumerism, of materialism, of hedonism, where the powerful sees the poor human being as a bank which has to be exploited.
We live in a world divided in classes where life, the most sacred of the human being, is being stripped away. The root of human rights ought to be sought in the dignity which belongs to every human being. The natural foundation seems more firm if, in the light of faith, one  considers that human dignity, after having been given by God and then profoundly damaged by sin, was assumed and redeemed by Jesus Christ.
The ultimate source of human rights is not found in the mere will of human beings, in the reality of the State or in the public authorities, but it is found in the very person and in God the Creator. These rights are universal and inviolable and cannot be renounced for any reason.…
The shadowy situation of human rights in Honduras, where violence has become a daily discourse, tends to worsen in a drastic way without there being presented real solutions to the existing economic and political crisis in our country.
The sneaky process of privatization which has come to us instigated by the Honduran right and private businesses has been denounced by organizations of high school students who have been repressed by agents of the “Ministry of Security.”
Institutions such as Hondutel [the national telephone company], ENEE [the national electric company], Honducor [the national postal service], Cohdefor and many more were started as sources of income for the State. They are institutions whose activities add up to large amounts of money and their income then serve to buy medicine and machines for hospitals and health centers, to construct schools, high schools, and pay for teachers, as well as for subsidizing some products and services such as transportation, for rural electrification and other means of social compensation for Hondurans in general. Instead of the government strengthening these institutions, it rather seeks concessions and to privatize them in order to favor the excessive ambitions of the private business sector of the country who only seek to have them. Businessmen and international credit organisms are in opposition to the government continuing to manage the great sums of money that state enterprises generate….
No to privatization.           

THEME: Politics and participative democracy
Christ continues being crucified through corruption at all levels, domestic violence within the households, organized crime, drug-trafficking, common crime, political divisions, the lack of social justice, migration, lack of sources of work, polarization in society, problems of education, the grabbing of lands by a few who have provoked the death of campesinos, unemployment, lack of dialogue, of listening and reflection in society. All this obstructs us from advancing on the path of a participative and representative democracy. These realities are the sharp nails for the people who continue being crucified by the injustices and the mistaken decisions of the politicians (Amos 5: 10-13)
Jesus goes on the way to Calvary, carrying the cross, with the mission of redeeming us. Today the people carries a heavy cross on the way to their own death and destruction, so beaten down that they cannot distinguish the Him who wishes to save them because they are exhausted facing the powerful who take them to the ballot boxes every four years, to kneel before their bosses. If the people continue to be continually deceived with political campaigns, if they take advantage of the sentiments of the people and by means of the songs by which they make the poor people dance to the sound of music and impose on them the candidate who conveniently favors their interests.

THEME: Abortion
Commentary from the perspective of faith:
We Christians ought to follow the example of our fathers and mothers in faith and the witnesses of life of caring for infants: like Abraham, Sarah, Zachariah, and Elizabeth, Saint Joseph the just man with the Virgin Mary who help us care for the life which comes from God.
We trust that as God confided to the gift of life he may also help us to be protector of the gift of God and the family in which the father and mother bear and guard the divine project.

13. Jesus is taken down from the Cross
THEME: Martyrs of faith and commitment with the people
Thus as Jesus was taken down from the cross, forgotten and buried as someone with no dignity, the people continues to be buried in the persons who work with good will without any encouragement by the state.
Today our people continues to be forgotten, buried in misery and poverty because of the corruption which is lived in our country.
The majority of those who die for the sake of the Gospel, by denouncing the social injustice which our people lives, are innocent who coming from a quiet life take on a solidarity with others. Not concerned with destroying the poor in order to gain power as n the times of Jesus, “they play with the life of the poor in misery no only for money but for a par of sandals”. (Amos 8:6-7)
Commentary from the perspective of faith:
Faith makes us move to meet forward to an encounter with the Lord and a  commitment to the people. Therefore, we are called to serve others in accord with our calling, to do it with the heart like the faith of Zaccheus  who recognized the Lord as his savior. (Luke 19: 1-9)

THEME: A people terrorized and silenced
Facts of the reality
In 2011 Honduras was considered as one of the most violent countries in Latin America. The people die sometimes in front of their terrorized family members who choose by their silence to save their lives, since they are threatened if they speak the truth.
Biblical reading: Mark 15: 46-47
Jesus was placed in the tomb which was in a deep rock. In the eyes of his opponents this appear to be their triumph. In the scene, the only participants were Joseph of Arimathea who took him down  from the cross, Mary Magdalen, and Mary his mother. Where are the disciples? Where are his followers? They have scattered fearing that they might suffer the same fate as their master. he had finished his mission, shared as a human; he had humbled himself (Philippians 2,8). He here encountered the most terrible humiliation. This provokes in his apostles and followers a terrible fear. Jesus Christ found himself alone. The people who in some other time had proclaimed him king had been dispersed and even had turned their backs against him.
Jesus Christ continues dying and we continue abandoning him for fear. Fear has invaded us and made us lose the meaning of life.
We commit ourselves to speak the truth even risking our lives. “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul,” says the Lord. Archbishop [Oscar] Romero gave this witness, affirming: “I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me I will rise in the Salvadoran people.” “Do not fear,” [Pope] John Paul II tells us. Let us ask our Lord Jesus Christ for the courage to defend life.