Friday, March 25, 2016

A good Good Friday

A few weeks ago I had arranged to go to Debajiados for Good Friday. It’s one of the most remote villages and, if it has been raining, you can’t get in by car, even in four-wheel drive!

This morning about 7:15 I called Juan Ángel and asked him about the road and when they were going to begin the Stations. The road was fine and they had planned to start at 8:00. I had planned fro 9 or later. I almost panicked but he offered to put starting off until I arrived.

I arrived in 45 minutes – since the road was good and there was no traffic.

Entering the village I found Juan Ángel, his kids, and a woman preparing the stations. Later I found out that someone had broken up a few of the stations they had arranged earlier. (Someone said it was some local evangelicals.)

The stations started at about nine – with a nice crowd, including a surprising number of men and a lot of kids.

When we reached the church at the end of the stations at about 11, they decided to go straight into the celebration of the Passion.

The celebration was straight-forward, though I was moved by the veneration of the cross.

One thing I noted is how hard it is for most of the people in these aldeas [villages] to read. But then  I remember that many of these people have had little formal education. One rather articulate single twenty-three year old who read pretty well has only had two years of formal education. With so little, some do so much.

After a simple lunch I went with Juan angel to bring Communion to his parents who have been ill for several months and haven’t been able to get to church. No wonder. They live about 30 minutes from Debajiados by horse – up and down hills.

So the poor horse, named Payaso – the clown, carried Communion and me to the sick. 

I recognized Antonio, his father, who had been very active in the church in Debajiados. We talked, I shared prayer and Communion and then I left with Juan Ángel’s grandmother and some other relatives who were visiting. On the way out we found out that someone drowned in a nearby water hole. I ended up giving a number of folks a ride so that they could go to the village where the accident happened.

What is the meaning of this for me?

Today as I prepared for the Celebration of the Word I was struck by two passages which spoke to me of how God didn’t just suffer for us; in Jesus, God suffers with us.

In the letter to the Hebrews (3:16), the author characterizes Jesus as a high priest but 
“we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.”
Isaiah 53:4 speaks of the suffering servant in these words:
it was our pain that he bore, our sufferings he endured.

We do not have a God who is far from our sufferings, who does not share in them. We have a God who is with us in our suffering; that does not take away the pain but it may give us strength to struggle and hope.

Maybe this image I captured of a small cross on the road, amid the people's feet, sums it up well. Christ is here, looking at life from the ground up, seeing the worn and tired feet, but present - and vulnerable.

 In this way we are called to be a church that resembles Jesus, as Jon Sobrino writes:
To resemble Jesus is to reproduce the structure of his life. In gospel terms, the structure of Jesus’ life is a structure of incarnation, of becoming real flesh in real history. And Jesus’ life is structured in function of the fulfillment of a mission— the mission of proclaiming the good news of the Reign of God, inaugurating that Reign through all signs of every sort, and denouncing the fearsome reality of the anti-Reign. The structure of Jesus’ life meant taking on the sin of the world, and not just standing idly by looking at it from the outside. It meant taking on a sin that, today, surely, continues to manifest its greatest power in the fact that it puts millions of human beings to death. Finally, the structure of Jesus’ life meant rising again and raising again— having, and bestowing on others, life, hope, and gladness.

The quote from Sobrino is found in his essay “The Samaritan Church and the Principle of Mercy,”
found in Christine M. Bochen, ed., The Way of Mercy. Orbis Books, pp. 60-61.

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