Saturday, November 12, 2016

Dread and hope

This past week I was attending the Santa Rosa diocese annual pastoral assembly with more than 100 priests and lay people of the diocese to evaluate what we have done and to plan for the future.

Tuesday, at our evening prayer, we prayed the rosary. As I prayed, I felt a deep sense of dread about the US elections. I asked Mary, who under the title of the Immaculate Conception, is patroness of the US, to guide and care for the nation.

The feeling was not of fear or anger – but a sense that something was not right.

I had been hearing all day questions about the election and a concern from many – not all – that Trump would be elected. This was in part a reaction to his statements about deporting undocumented migrants.

But my dread was not centered on a possible Trump victory. I had a sense that whoever won, the result might not necessarily be good for the poor of the world. And so I also prayed that God would have mercy on the US.

When I woke up in the middle of the night I checked the results on the internet and found that Trump had won the electoral vote. I did not feel angry or indignant but I felt sad more than anything else. (To be clear, I would not have necessarily felt happy if Hilary had won.)

When I got up and sat down to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, I found myself comforted by the last verses of Psalm 82.

Arise, O God, judge the earth
for you rule the nations.

God is the ruler of the world, no matter who is president of the United States. May God’s Reign rule. May that Reign inspire each of us to seek to make a world open to the poor, to the Other, to all those marginalized – in our own lives and in our communities.

I was soon to see a sign of that Reign.

Today, Saturday, I went to three zones to talk to their zonal councils about some up-coming events in the parish.

At the first, I saw a young man from the village of Debajiados. I asked him about the widow of Juan Ángel López who died last September, leaving her with four kids between five months and eight years old. The smallest child is in the hospital, but the community has gathered around the family to help. The landowner is arranging the papers for the land where the house of the widow is and there may even be the gift of some land for them. Such generosity in one of the poorest villages in the parish.

But then he told me something that gives me hope. The community has decided to set up a separate fund to be available in cases of emergency. They are asking everyone who goes out to harvest coffee to give one lempira each day they work.

You have to realize that the coffee harvest is almost the only source of cash income for many people in our parish and so this is significant. Right now the coffee harvesters get 30 lempiras (about $1.36) for every five-gallon bucket picked. Usually people can fill between 3 and 5 buckets a day.

This may not seem to be much but it so impressed me that I recommended it to the three zonal councils I visited. (I couldn’t find the fourth one in time to get there.)

What impressed me is that this initiative comes from a very poor community. This sign of the presence of God’s Kingdom give me hope.

On the urging of our pastor I had begun talking with some communion ministers and the zonal coordinators of social ministry about responding to widows and others in need. We will also, God willing try to set up a fund, administered by members of the parish, to help respond to emergencies in a way that doesn’t create dependency but which tries to help the efforts of the persons affected and their communities to respond to basic needs, usually related to health.

But something has started without me, by the pure grace of God touching the hearts of the poor so that they can respond to each other.

I am filled with a quiet hope.

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