I woke up about 6:00 am in Agua Buena on Good Friday. After two cups of coffee and about an hour of reading psalms, I walked around the village.
They were preparing for the Via Crucis, the Stations of the Cross. A tradition they have there is to prepare fourteen large crosses in the road, decorated with flowers. The crosses are made of jiote, also known as indio desnudo (the naked Indian) or bursera simaruba.
I left Agua Buena about 8:00 am to get to El Bálsamo, one of the most remote and poor villages in the parish.
There I first visited an elderly woman to bring her Communion. Clementina will turn 100 in December and, tough she is weak, she is quite aware of what is happening. A woman of deep faith, she talked my ear off.
I was taken by the deep faith of this illiterate woman who has a deep love for God. Before leaving, I asked her to bless me. It was only appropriate.
I joined the Via Crucis – Stations of the Cross – at the third station.
They are using the stations we developed for the parish Via Crucis last Friday. One element of these stations is that we used this quote of Pope Francis this quote of Pope Francis (from his September 7, 2013 homily) at every station:
"My Christian faith urges me to look to the Cross. How I wish that all men and women of good will would look to the Cross if only for a moment! There, we can see God’s reply: violence is not answered with violence, death is not answered with the language of death. In the silence of the Cross, the uproar of weapons ceases and the language of reconciliation, forgiveness, dialogue, and peace is spoken."
The village church leaders led the stations, but a little girl carried the cross for most of the procession.
At the end of the stations, we gathered in their small church. they asked me to say a few words.
For me one of the most important things to share with these people is that Christ is there suffering with them. There is a strong sense of Christ suffering for them and the salvation brought by the Cross (and Resurrection). But I think it is important to emphasize the presence of Christ with us in our sufferings – not to take them away, but to give us the courage to live – and even hope – in the midst of suffering.
I would soon see an example of this.
After sitting around and talking with some of the leader, I left for Delicias, Dolores. We got there early and I went to visit a sick couple.
As we approached the house I saw a good number of kids in the doorway and an older man (only 72) there. Juan Ángel’s arms were hanging by his side – probably the result of a stroke or other cause. He was quite friendly. My guide, Maximo, their son-in-law, brought out Juan’s wife, Josefina, who is blind and 74 years old.
We spoke and I found out they had been married for 51 years! We talked and prayed and I shared the Eucharist with them. I made a point of talking to the grandchildren gathered at the door, urging them to take care of their grandparents. Maximo told me that though he would like to move to another place to make a better living, at the insistence of his wife they remain there to help these two frail, ill parents.
I was moved and told them we would pray for them at the service.
There were not a lot of people at the service, the Good Friday Liturgy. But it was a time full of grace.
After the service, I talked with a few of the folks, only to find out that two of them were going to get married in May.
I returned home to Plan Grande tired, but grateful for the chance to have spent these two days with the poor – especially with the sick.
As Christ accompanies us in our sorrow and suffering, I was gifted with the opportunity to accompany the poor and the sick – and to be blessed by a ninety-nine year old woman.
This year Good Friday has taken on a new meaning - Christ Jesus suffering at our side.