Saturday, November 19, 2022


Tomorrow is the feast of Christ the King, but I’ve had the Gospel story of Jesus entering Jerusalem on my mind.

Palm Sunday 2015

Part of my ministry in the parish is training of catechists.

A few years ago, I did each training session in each of the four zones of the parish. Five years ago, I did the first of the sessions in the mountain village of Delicias Concepción. An account of that experience can also be found here.

Because many catechists and pastoral workers have been taught scripture in very limited ways, I often try different ways of reading and praying scripture. They are used to looking for moral guidance in the readings or doctrinal affirmations or literal accounts.

Often I try the imaginative contemplative reading in the style of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. I read the passage one or more times, leaving time for quiet. I urge the catechists to try to put themselves in the narrative and pay attention to their senses – what they hear, see, small, taste, feel physically as well as how they feel emotionally. Then, after some time of quiet, I ask them to share with one or two others. Afterwards I invite several to share their experience.

That day I used the Palm Sunday accounts, reading the Gospel three times (each time from a different evangelist).

When I asked some to share, one young man noted that he had been afraid for Jesus. Jesus was going to sit on a mule that had never been mounted before. As a campesino, he knew what usually happens: the animal bolts and the person ends up on the ground. But when this did not happen to Jesus, he was relieved.

I never had heard such a reading and continue to be amazed at the wisdom of this young man and the implications this has on our understanding of Jesus. (I’ll get to this later.)

A few months later, I was in Iowa and was asked to give a presentation for the retired sisters at the motherhouse of the Dubuque Franciscans, several of whom I have known from their ministry in El Salvador and in Honduras.

At the end of my presentation, which was pretty grim, given the situation of Honduras at that time, one sister asked me if there was anything that gives me hope. I immediately thought of this bible reading and shared the story.

When I got to the point of the young man’s concern for Jesus’s safety with the untamed donkey, I heard chuckles throughout the room. Probably most of the women in that room had been raised on Iowa farms and knew what happens when you try to sit on an untamed beast.

A retired priest who is a published biblical scholar and former professor at Loras College was in the room, since he serves the sisters. I asked him if he ever heard any scholarly note of this. He hadn’t.

But this past week, I found one Baptist biblical scholar who did. Clarence Jordan, the founder with his wife and others of Koinonia Farms in Georgia, had degrees in Agriculture and theology. He did Cotton Patch translations of the Gospels, placing Jesus in Georgia. 

Koinonia Farms is an interracial community that has sought to live the Gospel in a unique way and has suffered for their witness. 

 Last week, I finished reading a book of selections of his writings published by Plough Publishing, an arm of the Bruderhof, The Inconvenient Gospel: A Southern Prophet Tackles War, Wealth, Race, and Religion, edited by Frederick L. Downing.

The book is a delight and inspiring. But the real surprise was his chapter “Jesus, Leader of the Poor.” In it, he retells the Palm Sunday event as a great demonstration:
So he gathered together a great crowd of these poor people and then told his disciples he was going to lead the demonstration. He said, “I need something to ride on.” Now, this is interesting! Anyone who is going to enter the city as the king usually gets himself a big, white Arabian steed. We would expect Jesus to say, “You all go up to Tyre or Nineveh and get me one of those fine Arabian stallions – I want to do this thing up right!” But do you know what he said to his disciples? “I want you to go into the village there and get me a mule.” And he said, “I want you to get me one on which no one has ever sat” (Mark 11:2). Now Jesus must have been a real man to ask for that kind of mule! I tried once to sit on “a mule whereon no man had ever sat” and when I got through with him he was still “a mule whereon no man had ever sat!” But Jesus could ride that mule. The mule was the symbol of the lowly, the working classes, the toiling people.
Raised on a farm, living on a farm, he knew what happens when you try to sit on “a mule whereon no man had ever sat.”

The Honduran campesinos, the retired Franciscan sisters, and a Baptist preacher got what almost no scripture scholar had ever noticed. I am floored! 

But, as I reflect on the Palm Sunday story, I begin to see that what Jesus did that day was not just announce the coming of the Reign of God; he lived it and made it real.

In the Reign of God, there is peace and harmony in the world. The Reign of God is a restoration of the harmony in the Garden of Eden. The Reign of God is the prophecy of the Peaceable Kingdom of Isaiah 11 made real. The Reign of God is the way that Jesus was "with the wild beasts" in the desert (Mark 1).

The will of God is this peace and harmony.

Jesus makes this real and we are called to make it real.

But it is not brought about by arms and violence. Jesus enters Jerusalem, knowing that many were planning to kill him. But he enters unarmed, not on a war horse but on a donkey, a mule, an ass.

In his simplicity, in his vulnerability he saves us and shows us the way to live in the Reign of God, on earth as in heaven. 

 All this has been going through my mind as I prepared for our parish celebration of Christ the King tomorrow.

Christ the King, November 2015

A few weeks ago, Father German noted how the image of Christ the King central to the understanding of most people is that of a dominating ruler, whose word is law. Instead, he noted, we must look to Christ the servant. We’ll try to offer a different vision tomorrow.

I will give the opening marks for our procession before Mass, centered on Christ the Servant King, who brings victory by his service, his commitment even to the cross, and his love. You can read my draft in Spanish here. I hope I have time to translate it.

But above all, I pray that this message of the servant king, who enters the city on a mule, and shows us the Reign of God, a reign of justice love and peace, will transform all of our hearts, here in the parish and in the world – especially in the Church.

As I prepared for Christ the King Sunday, I came across this quotation from the address of Pope Francis to the Bishops of Mexico on February 13, 2006:
Above all, la Virgen Morenita teaches us that the only power capable of conquering the hearts of men and women is the tenderness of God. That which delights and attracts, that which humbles and overcomes, that which opens and unleashes, is not the power of instruments or the force of law, but rather the omnipotent weakness of divine love, which is the irresistible force of its gentleness and the irrevocable pledge of its mercy.
May “the omnipotent weakness of divine love” empower us to be instruments of our servant King in this world in so need of love and justice.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

A different type of medical brigade

Last Saturday, a medical group, AMIGAS, arrived in force to do three medical brigades here. They have been coming here for several years. 

I have my reservations about many medical groups who come to Honduras to do a quick “Gringo doctors will heal you” with a single visit. 

But this group is different. First of all, they return to the same municipalities each year. )This year they also spent a day near la Lima, on the coast, since they have connections there and there was a community very devastated by the rains this year.)

 They came to our area for the first time at least six years ago and they come once or twice a year (although they were not here in 2020, due to the pandemic.) Thus, they get to know a bit about the area and its specific problems and also get to know and support the local public health people. They are also great in interacting with local people.
I have accompanied them for several years, often translating for the doctors who don’t speak Spanish. I also end up being the extra vehicle to help get them to the distant sites. 

They do not stay in hotels. This year, they stayed in the parish center which worked out rather well for them, mostly in terms of having sufficient space to prepare the medicine for their rural visits. 

 This year they went to three locations: the municipal center of Concepción, the village of El Limón, and the mountain village of Delicias Concepión. They probably saw around 1000 people. 

This year I didn’t do much translating. They have some adolescents from a Santa Rosa bilingual school who regularly come and help.
But this year there was something that I found very encouraging. 

In Delicias, I was helping get people in line to see the doctors. At one point, I looked up and saw the doctors and nurses. Five of them were Hondurans. The other four service providers were from the US.
This is not a “gringo” brigade, although funded and led from the US. 

Interesting the directors are a US doctor from Missouri (I think) and a Honduran Sister of Mercy who does her ministry in Missouri. I wonder if the people realized this. 

The presence of Honduran medical volunteers is a very subtle way of trying to avoid the danger of the brigades undermining Honduran health personnel. 

This blogpost is somewhat sketchy since I am tried and need more sleep, but I am grateful that I could accompany them. (I even took six of them to the Copán Mayan ruins on their day off.) 

They were also a group filled with a lot of energy.
I look forward to their future visits and am very grateful for their commitment to serve the poor