Sunday, November 19, 2017


Today my Facebook feed is full of pictures in red and blue. The last few days I have been seeing lots of cars with red and blue flags, and some with red flags and yellow letters. Last night loud music filled Plan Grande, accompanying the group with red and yellow flags.

No, it is not a new artistic event here in Honduras. It’s the official end of electioneering.

Next Sunday Honduras holds elections for the President, for members of Congress (deputies), and mayors. The three major parties seeking votes are the National Party (blue), Liberal Party (red), and Alianza (red and yellow) which is a coalition of several opposition parties. Tomorrow, at midnight, is the beginning of the electoral silence period when no electoral propaganda is permitted.

I have not been as careful an observer of the campaigns as I probably should have been but here are a few thoughts.

Last week the Venezuelan music group, Los Guaragua, which has written many very pointed political songs, such as “Casas del Carton” (Cardboard Houses) was denied entry to Honduras by emigration authorities in the San Pedro Sula airport. They were coming to play for the Alianza party.

Several times in the last few weeks I’ve seen people with plastic bags with food items, the bolsas de solidaridad (Solidarity bags) which come from the national government and contain some food elements. These are part of the government’s poverty easement program.

The national government which controls migration and gives out bonos as part of its Vida Mejor (A Better Life) is controlled by the National Party.

In October, passing through a town, I saw people carrying tin roofing and wood boards. I asked a friend whom I picked up to go with me to the confirmation Mass what this was about. Government bodies were giving out building materials.

In one municipal center a few weeks ago there was a rally for the ruling party. I was told that cars were lined up on the road into the town. Also, vehicles were paid about $50 to carry supporters of the National Party to the rally; some other vehicles were given $5 to put National Party political posters on their vehicles.

I have heard of people who have government jobs having to be involved in political campaigning, adding to their employment responsibilities.

There’s probably a lot more going on, but this is enough for me to be discouraged about the political situation here.

Yet I am not without hope. Today our parish, Dulce Nombre de María celebrated the feast of Christ the King with a parish-wide Mass in El Zapote Santa Rosa. The actual feast is next Sunday but because it is election day and open air public meetings (even Masses) are prohibited, we celebrated a week early – which providentially is also the first celebration of the World Day of the Poor.

 Hundreds came from all parts of the parish. Some places rented busses, others crammed into pickup trucks, others walked. It was a celebration of faith – but it was more.

The people came carrying green banners – reminding us to care for the earth, our common home. This is a theme dear to Pope Francis - the subject of his encyclical Laudato Si’ – and the theme of pastoral work here in Honduras this coming year.

I prepared various stations that we prayed as we walked to the place where we celebrated Mass. If you read Spanish, it is here.

During Mass, Padre German gave a moving sermon combining the Gospel from St. Matthew (25: 31-46), the Honduran Bishops message on the elections, the Pope’s message on the day of the poor, and the call to car for our common home.

In particular, he cited these words of Pope Francis

Blessed, therefore, are the open hands that embrace the poor and help them: they are hands that bring hope. Blessed are the hands that reach beyond every barrier of culture, religion and nationality, and pour the balm of consolation over the wounds of humanity. Blessed are the open hands that ask nothing in exchange, with no “ifs” or “buts” or “maybes”: they are hands that call down God’s blessing upon their brothers and sisters.

At the end of Mass, Padre German processed throughout the crowd with the consecrated host in the monstrance. After Mass, people were invited to share the tamales which had been prepared and were reminded to share them if there were not enough.

I thought of another section of Pope Francis’ message:

If we truly wish to encounter Christ, we have to touch his body in the suffering bodies of the poor, as a response to the sacramental communion bestowed in the Eucharist.

I returned home tired but filled with peace. This is what life should be about here – especially for the poor: not the often divisive partisan politics of red, blues, and other colors, but the green of a hope founded in a God who cares for the poor and for our common home and calls us to do the same.

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