Wednesday, December 04, 2013

On death and freedom

Two weeks ago mayor of Concepción was shot at on a road leading into Dulce Nombre. He was uninjured, but a two month infant in the truck was killed and the infant’s mother wounded. My initial reaction was fear.

The next morning I learned that he had been receiving death threats and so the attack was probably planned.

But that night I began to have some doubts about my plans to move out to the countryside net year, specifically since I’m planning to move to the village where the mayor comes from.

I would be driving the road where he was shot. I learned later exactly where his car was shot up. It’s not far on the road out of Dulce Nombre toward Caleras. I often pass the site.

I began to ask myself whether I would be risking my life by doing this.

It was not an easy night.

But after much thought and prayer, I felt at peace with my decision to move out. I will die eventually but I don’t see moving out to the parish as really dangerous. Most of those who have been shot at were specifically targeted.

But I realized also that it was the thought of death that opened up my heart to come here to Honduras.

When I was in New Orleans with a group from St. Thomas Aquinas in March 2006, we emptied out one woman’s house onto the sidewalk to be carted away to the dump. As we did this I wondered what would become of all my “stuff” after I died.

I think that fear of death and concern for security are obsessions of many in the United States.

But that fear can paralyze us and not open us to the workings of the Spirit. In The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times, Dean Brackley, S.J., wrote of fear as a disordered inclination:
Insecurity stirs our fear – of hardship, rejection, and death. Fear “disorders” our desires: we grasp for idols which promise security, but fail to deliver it. Idols enslave their devotees and demand human sacrifice.
In addition, reflecting on fear and freedom, I thought of this passage from Hebrews 2: 14-15:
the death [of Jesus] destroyed the one holding the power of death, that is the devil, and freed those who remained in bondage all their lifetime because of the fear of death.
The power of death holds us in bondage. Jesus, taking on flesh and suffering death, offers us a way to live in freedom.

It was, therefore, a blessing to read what Pope Francis said in his November 27 General Audience:
 One who practices mercy does not fear death. Think well of this: who practices mercy does not fear death! Do you agree? Shall we say it together so as not to forget? One who practices mercy does not fear death. And why does he not fear death? Because he looks at it in the face in the wounds of brothers, and overcomes it with the love of Jesus Christ.
If we open the door of our life and of our heart to our littlest brothers, then even our death will become a door that will introduce us to Heaven, to our blessed homeland, toward which we are directed, longing to dwell forever with our Father, with Jesus, Mary and the Saints.
“One who practices mercy does not fear death.”

Mercy pulls us into the lives of the poor and suffering – as Christ Jesus moved into our lives, becoming flesh and suffering with us.

And so I pray for mercy – for the grace to be merciful – and for the freedom to live that mercy with the poor.

In all this, I am at peace.

Looking out from a window of the church in Bañaderos

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