Monthly Archives: May 2020

Looking in the Wrong Place

Reflections for the Ascension

After Jesus ascended into heaven, his disciples were gaping at the clouds. The angels admonished them, “Why do you stand looking up to heaven?” (Acts 1:11).

Just forty days beforehand, angels had asked the women who had come to the tomb of Jesus, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5)

In 2004, while visiting the Holy Land, I took a day walking in Jerusalem – from the Temple Mount, the Dome of the Rock, I walked the Via Crucis, the Way of the Cross, to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

As I entered the tomb, I found two women there. (Isn’t that interesting – and biblical?) One was a Catholic sister who left after some time in prayer; the other was an Orthodox woman, praying in a low voice, bowing frequently while making numerous signs of the cross.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

All of a sudden, I had a revelation, recalling other words of the angels, “He is risen; He is not here.”

After I left the tomb, I went back to Bethlehem where I was staying with a friend. I was the only non-Palestinian on the bus.

As I look back, I recall that as I walked the Via Crucis I saw people going about their daily lives – a father walking with his son, Israeli soldiers patrolling, shopkeepers displaying their wares. On the bus I encountered a friendly man who helped me get back to Bethlehem, despite our differences of language and religion.

Jesus walked with me that day – and still walks with me – in many different ways.

Do we look for God in the wrong places? Do we think that he is contained in a tomb – or, even, in our church buildings?

I read of many people, here in Honduras as well as in the US, who are clamoring to open the churches.

I understand the longing to celebrate the Eucharist in community; I’ve only been in one Mass in more than two months. I’ve been in only two other Celebrations of the Word, where I presided over two funerals. I’ve only watched one complete live-streamed Mass, the ordination to the priesthood of a friend in Iowa. But, for me, these are not community participations in the Eucharist.

But God has graced me with time to pray, to read, to reflect on my life.

Being blessed with internet I have been able to connect with friends in several parts of the world – by Skype and Zoom. I have also participated in a few zoom sessions with other folks on a variety of topics. (What was surprising was finding people I know on the same Zoom sessions.)

I’ve also been writing a bit – not just for my blogs but also on a few projects. I’m trying to write something more on celibate deacons, since there is almost nothing available. I am also trying to write a longer work on my vocation as a deacon; my path to the diaconate is very different from most permanent deacons and, therefore, my vision of the diaconate is rather unique.

Two weeks ago, I decided to find a few ways to use this time for some ongoing formation. Since I need a refresher, I’m taking ten hours of classes in Spanish by internet. I am also taking a four week diplomado (a certificate program) with CEPROME of the Mexican Pontifical University on Prevention of Domestic Abuse. Abuse is a real problem here in Honduras and I think it’s important to be prepared to respond.

Twice I went out with local municipality workers to deliver bag of food and soap products to people in the villages, driving with a loaded pickup and several of the workers. Over 1600 households got bags. There may be a third distribution in a few weeks.

Though I have served as a deacon at Mass only once, I presume (and, thus, may be presumptuous) that I am trying to live out my vocation in a different way.

I wish I could get out more – but we are restricted to once every two weeks.

I am asking for a letter from the mayor’s office that will let me get out more often. There are about twenty couples that are prepared for marriage but haven’t done the final interview which I usually do in the parish office. The pastor and I are proposing that I go out to the communities and do the interviews there. If I get permission to circulate a little more often, I’ll at least be able to get to the villages in our municipality.

I have also told the pastor and the mayor that I am available to transport people if there is any need. It’s the least I can do.

And so, where am I looking for the Lord?

In the many ways God calls me to be faithful – to glorify God and to serve the poor.

The passing of Emiliano and the Good Shepherd

Yesterday in Plan Grande we sent Emiliano home to God.

Emiliano had been injured by electrocution several years ago and had been confined to his bed for several months. The pastor came at one point to anoint him and hear his confession. Communion ministers came regularly to share the body of Christ with him.

I met him first a few weeks ago when I went to preside at a funeral celebration of his father in their house.

Emiliano was so thin, emaciated, but at peace. “Me ha traido lo más especial”, he told me. “You’ve brought what is most special” – the Body of Christ.

After the funeral celebration in their home, I talked with his brother, who had cared for his father and his brother for years. He made sure they were fed and well taken care of. I later learned that he had been imprisoned for six years on false charges.

I was thinking about Emiliano yesterday morning. Then a son of my neighbor, Gloria, one of the Communion ministers, came and told me that he had died.

I found out later that he died in great peace. He had not been eating for several days and was suffering great pain, crying out when someone tried to move him. But Friday morning, he ate a little and then fell asleep. Waking up, he prayed, “Lord, have mercy, Lord,” and passed on to the Lord.

About 2 o’clock Gloria arrived and told me that the family was asking for a funeral. She was willing to do it but asked me. Though I really believe in avoiding gatherings, I said yes, but asked that there be careful spacing of people in the church.

I don’t have access to the English funeral rites, but in the Spanish liturgical book I have there is an invitation to prayer. In part it reads,

“Que el Señor sea misericordioso con nuestro hermano, para que, libre de la muerte, absuelto de sus culpas, reconciliados con el Padre y llevado sobre los hombros del buen Pastor, merezca gozar de la perenne alegría de los santos en el séquito del rey eterno.””
“May the Lord be merciful with our brother, so that, freed from death, absolved of his faults, reconciled with the Father, and carried over the shoulders of the good Shepherd, he may merit to enjoy the everlasting joy of the saints in the entourage of the eternal king.”

Each time I pray this over the body of someone who has died I cannot help sharing the beauty of one image – the one who has died being carried on the shoulders of the Good Shepherd. I often ask people to reflect on this image, how God loves us so much that he carries us. I sometimes encourage people to think of the deceased person being held in God’s arms, “chineado” as we say here in Spanish, a phrase often used in terms of a person holding an infant or a small child in her arms.

God carries us – on his shoulders or, as a mother, in loving arms.

Praying over the coffin of Emiliano, I rejoiced that God was holding him – and that Emiliano felt the love of God, even as, I believe, he felt that love in the midst of his pain.

May Emiliano rest in God’s loving arms – and may we remember this.

As if God continually tries to penetrate my heart, this morning I prayed Psalm 28. Verse 9 reads:

Save your people and bless their heritage;
Be their shepherd and carry them forever.

Be our shepherd, Lord, and carry us forever.


Image from the cemetery of Mount Saviour Monastery, taken from their webpage