Sunday, June 04, 2017

Pentecost Vigil: nightmares, insomnia, and depression

The parish of Dulce Nombre celebrated the Vigil of Pentecost from about 7:00 pm on Saturday night to about 5:30 am on Pentecost Sunday morning. We started late with a bonfire and procession – we were supposed to begin at 6:00 pm – and we ended early with the rosary – we planned to end at 6:00 am. I made it through without a nap, but I’m exhausted and exhilarated.

Mass began about 2:15 am and ended about 5:00 am. We used all the Pentecost Vigil readings with their responsorial psalms and even added Luke’s account  of the Pentecost in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, as well as the Pentecost sequence.

Padre German asked me about ten days ago to preach. I prayed, read, and thought about it many times and finally began with a question, “Where does the Spirit blow?”

But I started looking at where the Spirit is not present, using two of the readings – to throw some light on our situation here in Honduras.

The story of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11: 1-9), the people who wanted to be famous, to make a name for themselves, brought to mind the domination and power over others that I see here in Honduras, not just in political and social elites but even among the poor and in the church. Those who have a little power lord it over others, seeking a name for themselves, or – at least – a connection with those in power.

The question that came up for me when I read Ezekiel’s account of the dry bones (Ezekiel 37: 1-14) was “Where are the dry bones here?” I had worked with a group of young people who were going to do a socio-drama identifying some dry bones, but they didn’t show up. But we had identified some – a person obsessed with revenge for the death of a loved one, a young woman looked down upon by others, a young man who had lost his sense of worth, an adolescent whose parents only accuse him of being useless. But I added some others – the way the society here treats campesinos as dirt, the way woman are victimized and suffer violence and maltreatment. The list could go on.

But just a few hours before Mass, I began to reflect more deeply on the prophecy of Joel (3: 1-5), where young people shall have visions and the old shall dream dreams. I thought of all the young people who find themselves without vision, without a sense of meaning for their lives. I recall the words of a young man, now in the US, who once told me while I was trying to persuade him not to go to the US, “What does Honduras have to offer me?” The young cannot find jobs, even professionals. I ran across a young doctor a few weeks ago who was looking for a public health position; he was not hopeful, partly because he was not one to look for a job based on political connections. I thought of others who give up, and waste their lives in drugs or drink or sports. I thought of the young people who have lost hope. I also thought of the old who have lost their dreams and are worried about the lives and safety of their children and grandchildren, threatened by violence, gangs, and poverty. They need reams, not nightmares.

Later in the Mass, Padre German took my ideas and clarified them for me. Where the Spirit doesn’t blow, old men have nightmares, old women have insomnia, and the young are depressed.

Though the situation is desperate, I do not love hope. I do believe that these dead bones can live again, as God tells Ezekiel.

I had meant to give some examples, beyond the story of the first Pentecost, of what happens when the Spirit blows, but I guess preaching at 3:30 in the morning can accelerate memory loss.

But when I wrote my notes I thought of signs of hope, signs of the presence of the Spirit.

There’s the youth group that has become a full-fledged base community in their village, with about 20 young people meeting each week.

There are the catechists who take their students to visit the sick and pray with them.

There’s the couple in their late seventies this past week in Plan Grande.

There are the growing number of couples who are considering the sacrament of matrimony.

There are people who help poor families in their villages and the communities that came together to prepare the celebration of the wedding here in Plan Grande and the celebration of the Pentecost vigil.

They realize that the gift of the Holy Spirit is also a challenge, a call.

And so I ended my homily encouraging people to look at the description of the Holy Spirit in the Sequence and to live that Sequence in their daily lives.
Come, Father of the poor;
Come giver of gifts;
Come light of the hearts.
 Clean that which is stained;
Water what is dry;
Heal what is ill;
Bend what is rigid;
Warm up what is cold;
direct what has gone astray.
I closed with these thoughts:
Come, Holy Spirit -  and let us do your work, so that we may be signs of the Reign of God in our world. Come, Holy Spirit.

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