Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Simple Realizations


People frequently ask me how my year is.  It is such a hard question to answer, because it is like reflecting on an entire year of your life all at once.  How many good, sad, fun, confusing times does one person have in a year?  The answer:  many.

I think a better question to ask a YAGM is “What have you learned?”  The answer you get might be a huge life lesson, or a simple realization.  I think in my own case, I’ve had more of the latter.

I’ve discovered things about myself that I might not have realized if I weren’t placed into an entirely different culture and community.  I’ve realized simple things such as I am really (really) not accustomed to life being loud all the time (i.e. traffic, dogs, gas truck sirens, music) to bigger realizations such as knowing that sometimes I need to have my own space and independence in order to not go crazy.

It is among these simple realizations that we YAGM slowly discover who we are as God’s people.  We begin to identify both our gifts and our limits – or at least the areas where we are stubborn to change.  And with these insights in hand, we enable ourselves to better be servants and leaders in the world.

So, while YAGM clearly puts us into accompaniment with other people, it also challenges us to look inside ourselves and see the all the pieces – even the broken ones – and that reflection is part of what gets to the heart of the last year of our lives. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Mother’s Day Filled with Memories


On this May 10th, we bring recognition to mothers all around Mexico.  We remember our love for them; and our appreciation of their love for us.  During times both good and difficult, mother and child have a deep relationship with each other.  It is on this day that we honor that relationship.

I’d like to take a moment today to also remember the mothers who will hear nothing but silence today -- the silence of their child who is missing or dead; the silent suffering of the memories that live in their hearts.  This day has powerful meaning for these mothers as well.

We must also not forget the children who live without their mothers.  Their own memories bring heartache for her loss and smiles for the time they spent together.  Children –both young and old—will never forget the woman whom they called mom, mama, mommy, and mother.

Together with all of creation I celebrate mothers, living and departed, who create memories of strength, intelligence, courage, and most of all love.

Thank you to mothers throughout Mexico and the world.
I love you Mom. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Alleluia! Today is Easter!

We went to the tomb to mourn… but we found it empty. 

Today we have all been forgiven.  All those times I failed to show love and act with love have been forgotten.  God who is eternally merciful forgives us and makes all things new.  

Easter is not just about forgiveness of our sins but goes further than this!  If Jesus’ death was a result of our failure to choose love, his resurrection is a chance to choose love all over again.  We are given the amazing gift to live out God's love on this earth.

In contrast with my Good Friday post, I am strikingly aware of all the good things that people work for in this world.  Sara Miles –author of Take this Bread—writes about a food pantry she helped start that feeds God’s people, Tom’s Shoes brings footwear to those who have none, community violence centers give comfort to women and men who suffered through rape and domestic violence, movements for peace in Mexico give voice to families of victims, a mother writes a response about being Christian and still loving her gay son, churches all across the world open their doors to the stranger and welcome them with open arms.  

For the next 50 days of Easter, we will be reminded about renewal of life.  Water once again finds its way into the baptismal fonts and the deserts of our lives.  Flowers and life literally will return to our world during spring.  And we shall show love to one another.  I believe that if we work together to show love we can change this world into the creation God envisioned.  We can make the heaven on earth talked about in the gospel Matthew.  We can choose life.

Today is the day.  Show some love!  Share the bread!

Alleluia, Christ is Risen!

********************************

Ever-loving God, 

I began the day prepared to mourn, but You emptied the tomb.  

As Jesus taught, I promise to show love, kindness, and mercy to all I encounter.  I promise to aid in the renewal of all creation by showing love to my neighbor and to myself.  I will lean towards love in everything I do.  I have been forgiven, and I will forgive others.  

Keep pulling at my heart and teaching me to live in right-relationship with your creation.
Amen

Friday, April 6, 2012

Today is Good Friday


“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  -John 13:34

Being a disciple of Jesus means we must follow the example he set for us.  Wash the feet of one another.  Share bread and wine with one another.  Love one another.  “Die” in the name of love.

How hard is it to let yourself die in the name of love?  I don’t mean physical death, but death of ideals and beliefs; the essence of who we are.  How hard is it to let die your ideas of what the world is, how it works, what is right and wrong, who is holy and evil, of what is sinful? Apparently it is very difficult since we (myself included) seem to be incapable of doing it… because we choose to kill Jesus’ [ideas] instead of our own.  We choose our own righteousness over love.  

We fail.  As surely as the people who rejected Jesus put him on the cross, we reject him today every time we fail to show love among ourselves.  We betray Jesus.  We deny Jesus.  We crucify Jesus.  

As I reflected during this Holy Week, I was reminded of many ways we still refuse to show love to one another.  I read a story of three migrants who were suffocated in the desert; ached for a mother who cried over the death of her son.  As I listened to God’s desire for us to love one another, I felt despair.  In the face of the blatant call for love, I asked myself again, “Why is this so hard for us?”  Why is it difficult to show grace and forgiveness?  Why can we not follow the example of Jesus? 

I wondered to myself:  “What would the world look like if we showed each other love?”

Would we:
  •          Split up families because of their national origin?
  •          Forget about our elderly because they are costly to take care of?
  •          Tell victims of rape it was their fault for dressing so slutty?
  •          Build walls between our neighbors and ourselves?
  •          Kill each other for drugs or profit?
  •          Call people whores because they use contraceptives? 
  •           Engage in war?
  •          Turn away sick people for lack of insurance?
  •          Deny refugee status to people who are in danger?
  •          Disown our children because of their sexuality?
  •          Save our riches and ignore the poor?
  •          Condemn people to hell?
  •          Claim we don’t have enough bread to feed one another?

We have all the pieces to creating the world that Jesus taught us about.  We can make it happen by following the examples of love taught to us.  I wonder what would happen if I let my own sinful self-righteous ideas die in order to work toward heaven on earth.  I wonder what would happen if we all acted like Jesus.

But we don’t.  Holy week ends the same.  We are plunged into darkness.  We are lost.  We chose the ideas of Barabbas.  We have given Jesus up for crucifixion once again.  Jesus is dead and we yet live in a broken world waiting for someone to fix it while we have the tools and instructions lying at our feet.

I wonder when we will start acting like disciples of Jesus.

God have mercy.


********************


Lord,
I confess that I’ve missed the mark.  I have not loved you with all my heart, soul, and mind.  I certainly have not loved my neighbors the way you have shown to do.  Many days I don’t even love myself.  I'm sorry I put obeying rules and regulations over loving others.  I’m sorry I leaned toward the law and not towards love.  Show me how to love more freely; others, myself, and you.
Amen

Please take a few minutes of silence for reflection before Easter…

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The One Year Anniversary


Today is the one year anniversary of The Network for Peace and Justice.  A day that marks the pain of the loss of 7 people murdered, including the son of poet Javier Sicilia.  The 28th of March represents far more than just 7 people.  It represents the entire 60,000+ that have been killed.  It represents the cry of the Mexican people to not have more deaths.  It is a day that the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity calls out to the government, the cartels, and the entire world that they have had enough.  The ache and the tenderness of our hearts are real.  The time for change is now.  We must not wait even one more day.

*****

Below is some text from a pamphlet translated for today that describes four of the seven people whose death inspired this movement to take form.  I will keep my own words short for today, and after the events for today are over, I will write another post for you all to read.  After the article is finished, I put a small prayer for the end of violence.  Peace!

“The young men, together with Juan Francisco Sicilia, were young men without links to drugs, nor were they addicts, nor criminals.  They were students, sons of their families, friends, and brothers. 

Julio C├ęsar, 20 years old, was sophomore in college studying architecture at “La Uninter”.  He played basketball and soccer.  He used to play American football.  He spent time making models and plans, many times his girlfriend would help him.  He was definitely a perfectionist in his jobs.  Until he finished his homework, he wouldn’t do anything else.  He enjoyed riding horses and playing squash.  He was the most athletic of the four.

Luis Antonio, 24 years old, a graduate of Uninter.  He was studying to be a teacher of graphic design and had owned a small business, IDEAS DESIGN, where he worked on these types of issues. He was flirtatious and always was getting to know girls and asking them to sit with him at his table.  He enjoyed dancing a lot.  He enjoyed cooking.  He was a protector, always defending those who felt the most unprotected.

Gabriel (Gabo) was going to start his first day of work this Monday. 

Juan was known by his phrase “This [soccer] ball is on my chest and I don’t know how to move it down to my foot” which means that when someone gets into trouble, another comes to the rescue to save him from the situation.  Juan used glasses with very thick lenses and his friends teased him calling him “little blind boy”.

Julio, Juan, and Luis enjoyed playing soccer and many times organized teams and went to tournaments.

Luis, Gabo and Juan were the same age and the three were inseparable friends.

Luis, Gabo, and Juan loved to play cards and xbox and passed their free time playing it.

The four of them were neighbors on the same street – their houses were side by side to one another.  They were very good friends.  They all like to eat seafood.

The four were far from being without friends and were 4 boys who spent time with their families.  For them their families were very important and because of that, they did many family activities.”

*****

Let us pray for the people of God, the whole human family, and all of creation…

Loving and Merciful God,

We pray that violence be removed from our world,
That we can live a peaceful existence with ourselves and with our neighbors,
That the healing of our old wounds can begin,

We pray for whatever borders or boundaries prevent us from loving one another become celebrated:
Race, gender, nationality, sexuality, age, religion, and any other reason,

We pray that we can turn away from greed for money, lust for power, and desire for war,
And learn to live more simply, with the world as a partner, and work together peacefully.

God, we ask that you teach us these things again that we have forgotten,
Remind us that we are ALL your children
And we are called to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with you.

Amen

Friday, March 23, 2012

Healing our Borders

I have called you each by name; you are mine.

We are over halfway through this Lenten journey.  Each day we move deeper into God’s uncomfortable call of loving each other without border, closer to the pain of the cross, and nearer to the redeeming grace that is shown at Easter.  Part of any Lenten journey is reflection; both of ourselves and our community.  It is a time for prayer and remembering.  It is a time to talk about death.

My last post was a story about water for life.  But today, I will not be talking about living, but about dying.  I will be talking about the death of husbands, sisters, daughters, grandfathers.  I will be talking about the pain of leaving someone behind in the desert; of looking into your son’s eyes and knowing that he will not make it through the next night’s walk.  I will be talking about warm, salty tears that only serve to dehydrate you more.  Not everyone makes it through the desert, but everyone has a name.

Out of every story told to me on the border in Arizona, the one of the most moving and powerful was the prayer vigil in Douglas.  It is a weekly event that is organized by an interfaith group known as “Healing our Borders” as part of their mission to remember and pray for those who have died crossing the border through Cochise county.  Since it happens on the US side of the border, Team Mexico was allowed to participate in the prayer vigil.  










It was around 5pm or so on February 14th that we gathered in the McDonalds parking lot.  We huddled together in the wind while we waited.  Once everything and everyone arrived, we grabbed an old shopping cart –specifically saved for this purpose—and filled it with crosses.  Each cross had a name and two dates.  A birthday and a deathday.  After we loaded up the shopping cart, the process for the vigil was explained to us.  We would begin by grabbing a handful of crosses and forming a line.  Moving toward the border, we would read aloud the names and hold up the cross.  Once the line passed us, we set down our cross onto the curb and moved to the front of the line to read another name and hold up that cross.



A handful of the names:
Luisa Garcia – August 19th, 1958
Alejandro Lopez – March 11th, 1976
Maria de la Conception Reyes – November 12th, 1951
Juan Carlos Martinez – January 6, 1982
Carmen de Leon – July 31st, 2001
Pedro Hernandez – June 7, 1987
Desconocido* – Sept ‘86
Desconocida with her infant daughter – February ‘79
Desconocido – January ‘61
200 more names

(Desconocido, for those of you who don’t know, means unknown)

As we read those names aloud, we called into presence their spirits.  The spirit of who they were as a person, who their family is or was, who their friends were, their desires, the spirit of their life.  Each name and date hold meaning beyond just words and numbers, they represent people with stories and families of their own.  Their death is a tragedy, as are all deaths.  As I read aloud those names, I couldn’t help but picture people from my own community and how important to me they are.  I also tried to imagine what it would be like to not have them in my life anymore.  Each of these people has a community that aches to see them again.  Perhaps you would be willing to try an individual prayer vigil; read aloud the names listed above and think about who they might have been and call into presence the spirit of their life.  

The hardest part for me is thinking about the unknown.  When I read “Desconocido” for the first time, I was taken aback.  Who was this person, how do we know their age, what about their family?  These and many questions went through my head.  The answers were just as scary as the question:  we don’t know.  There are families in Mexico that have no idea what happened to their father, who seemingly just disappeared into the desert.  The woman who was walking with her infant daughter might have a husband living in the US who will never see his wife or daughter again, and will never know what happened to them.  The desert claims these unknown lives as well as other unfound bodies that have been disappeared into the sand.  These “Desconocidos” only made my heart cry out for justice even more.



God calls us each by name.  We are named when we are born and when we are baptized.  It is part of the promise that we are all abundantly loved; and in the naming of one another, we are claimed as children of God.  The people on those crosses may or may not have been baptized by water, but during each of these prayer vigils, they are baptized by sand and called by name one last time and named as part of God’s creation.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Simple Story about Water

When I thought about Arizona and the desert, I was expecting it to be hot during the day and colder at night.  I was wrong.  It was just cold and windy.  Thankfully, I had a sweatshirt, but I still wasn’t willing to brave riding in the back of a truck with 100+ gallons of water through the desert.  So behind the truck, five of us followed in the warm van, watching the volunteers from CREDA and YAGM bounce along slowly through the rough desert trail.  

CRREDA –a Mexican drug and rehab organization—and Aqua para la Vida (a US/Mexican group) work together to leave and maintain water supplies for migrants who are walking through the desert.  Their goal is to try and prevent the deaths of migrants by preventing dehydration during the very long journey.  Initially starting with bottles of water and eventually moving to 55-gallon water barrels, these organizations provide humanitarian aid that is necessary for life.

We were able to accompany CRREDA into the desert and see the process of filling the water barrels.  It was a chilly day, and we brought packed lunches with us to eat.  Almost all of the land along the border is privately owned, but these groups are given special permission to drive through it and put out water barrels.  After stopping to give a hand to the ranch owner with the installation of something –no one had any idea what he was doing, but we helped anyway—we finally arrived to the tank.  CRREDA people went to work immediately, cleaning the tank and then filling it with water.  We waited, watched, and were invited to begin eating our lunches.  I ate standing and trying to keep out of the wind, because it was freezing.

Suddenly, Sara –one of the volunteers—rushed back to the group and told us that there was a group of migrants hiding in a nearby ravine.  Our group guide spoke with them and was able to learn that they were waiting to cross into the United States, but couldn’t go until nightfall.  As we walked by to get back to the van, I noticed there were about 20 of them, huddled together, some with jackets and some without.  It must have been awful sitting there with nothing to do but wait.  

Without the water that CRREDA provided, these migrants would have likely begun their journey dehydrated.  Even though the air was cold, it was still very dry.  Waiting the entire day likely meant that they would have drunk all the water they brought with them, only to begin walking the several days journey north.    Who knows what would have awaited them?

Regardless of your feelings on the legality of what they were doing, migrants are still people, and do not deserve to die.  By offering this humanitarian aid and basic necessity of life, water, these organizations save lives of the men, women, and children that wander through the desert.  It is never wrong to give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, and clothes to the naked.  In fact, it is our call to do so; even if it gets in the way of our political ideology.  God makes it clear that our neighbors are to be loved, so as we continue our Lenten journey, let us not ever forget who we are:  dust and loved.

*****
Lord,
I confess that I’ve missed the mark.  I have not loved you with all my heart, soul, and mind.  I certainly have not loved my neighbors the way you have shown to do.  Many days I don’t even love myself.  I'm sorry I put obeying rules and regulations over loving others.  I’m sorry I leaned toward the law and not towards love.  Show me how to love more freely; others, myself, and you.
Amen