Monday, January 07, 2019

The first week of 2019

The new year is almost seven days old. What has this new year brought me?

I spent New Year’s eve at Mass in Plan Grande and then reading at home. New Year’s day I preached at the 11 am Mass in Dolores,

The second day of the year was a domestic day – washing clothes, reading, writing and more. 

I even got around to writing a chapter of a book I’ve been working on sporadically on my call to be in mission and to be a deacon. It was a fruitful day. I even took a walk down to the parish coffee field to see how it was doing. It was full of ripe coffee berries.

Thursday and Friday were workdays. I got up early both days to transport parishioners to the parish coffee fields. On Thursday more than 120 parishioners harvested more than 500 galones of coffee berries. On Friday about 75 people harvested more than 400. A group came bag on Saturday to finish this harvest. There are still enough green berries that we’ll have at least two more harvests.

"Un galón" is actually a five gallon bucket, as seen here.

After the work day I helped transport people back to their villages – and finally got home to Plan Grande about 6 pm.

On Saturday I went with some people from the parish to the deanery’s celebration of the World Day of Prayer for Peace. Padre German asked me to pick up the small water bags for the people and so I transported two people from Plan Grande and about 500 bags of water.

The event was a procession through the streets of Santa Rosa followed by Mass in the cathedral. People carried banners on this year’s theme. “Good politics is at the service of peace.” That’s a message that is really needed here.

Sunday I had planned to go to Pasquingual for a 9 am Celebration of the Word with Communion and then to Mass in San Agustín. But I had changed my plans and decided to go to the 7:00 am Mass in Concepción.

As I got into my pickup at about 6:30 am, I looked across the valley and saw something I’d never seen before – a spectrum of light above the earth. It wasn’t the end of a rainbow or a sun dog – but it was like the star of Bethlehem for me – a sign of God’s presence. How appropriate for the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord.

I preached at Mass in Concepción. After Mass, Padre German said he thought I was going to be at the Mass in San Agustín. He had seven Masses that day (including at least one funeral) and wanted some relief. (When I serve as deacon at Mass, he almost always wants me to preach.) So I agreed to go to San Agustín in the afternoon.

But first I went to Pasquingual. It was a beautiful Celebration of the Word with really good music, which was enhanced by the presence of a young guy from Tegucigalpa with an incredible singing voice. Of course, I preached again.

After the celebration I went to visit the sick with two members of the community. The second person we visited was named Jesús. He’s deaf and mute, but attentive. We sat and prayed with his wife and daughter. I remarked that it was interesting that we three had come to visit Jesús – two kings and a queen. Afterwards I visited a woman in her home and shared communion with her. On the way out I stopped and said hello to Don Salatiel, 95 years old but still walking around unaided.

This week probably broke one record for me – I preached three times in one day. But that’s nothing like what our pastor does as he responds to the needs of the people in the nearly 50 places of worship in the parish.

Today, I’m off to the clergy meeting with the bishop.

In the next few weeks I need to begin preparing for events this year, especially with the catechists. I also hope I can find time to do more work on my book.

The life of a deacon here is full - of many different ways of trying to live out the call to help us as the People of God show forth Christ the Servant, born among the poor, to a world in need of His Love and Peace.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

A proposed Epiphany homily

Today I began preparing for my homily for Sunday, the feast of the Epiphany, which I’ll share at a Celebration of the Word with Communion in a village as well as at Mass in a town. Many ideas are going through my head and heart as I ask God to help me speak the words we need to hear. But I thought of a homily I might give if I were in the US. Here are some reflections.

Twice this week as I was walking to my house after an evening Mass, I looked up and beheld the heavens filled with myriad stars. I stopped and gazed in wonder.

But as I began to prepare for my homily for the Epiphany, I began to wonder about the magi, these wise men from the East. How could they have noticed a single star in a sky filled with these little points of light. What could have led them to leave behind the security of their homes? They would have to travel overland, for weeks, probably on camels, without the assistance of GPS. They had an idea that a “king” had been born but they had no idea who he was or where he was. They were just following a star that they had somehow noticed.

On their way they were distracted by the bright lights of the city of Jerusalem and went there to ask questions. These star-struck foreigners must have surprised many of the city-dwellers. But when they asked Herod about the newborn king of the Jews, people were startled – and filled with trepidation. “Greatly troubled,” Herod conferred with the religious leaders, who were probably his cronies. They said that the king would be born in nearby Bethlehem, but they made no effort to go with the magi. They returned to their labors in the temple (and the court).

The magi left buoyed with the news that they were probably going in the right direction. But then they noticed the star – and they were “overwhelmed with joy,” or, as N. T. translates it, “they were beside themselves with joy and excitement.”

They entered the house and saw a mother with her child. I wonder if that might have felt like an anticlimax, a real disappoint.

But, falling down, crouching down, they worshipped the child.


These wise men had been filled with wonder at the sight of a star. They had not fawned over a king but merely sought his advice. But here they were, falling down, crouching at the feet of a baby.

Wonder led them to the stable; wonder and joy led them to prostrate themselves before a child.

Have we forgotten wonder? Can we look with delight at a star-filled sky – and see a special star? Can we look at a baby on his mother’s knee – and see God come among us? Can we adore God among us, on our knees?

The Jesuit priest Alfred Delp, from a Nazi prison, recognzied that they were free, having left all behind. As he wrote:

When those worshippers knelt in homage on the floor of the humble stable with everything else put behind them—their homes, the wilderness, the guiding star, the agony of the silent star, the palace of the king and the grandeur of the city—when all these had lost their value and their impressiveness and the worshippers’ whole being was concentrated in the single act of adoration, the symbolic gesture of laying gifts before the manger signified the achievement of liberty. Then they were free.

What was important was recognizing the mystery of God, here among us.

The star showed the way – but their hearts led them to fall down and worship.

Are we free enough to worship?

Are we free enough to follow the signs?

Have we left behind all, in search of Love come among us?

The first image is from Ravenna, the second is by Ade Bethune.