Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Challenges of Working for Change

What a wonderful experience it was to participate this past week in a three-day encounter of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit. Forty people (fifteen priests and twenty-five lay people) from different places in Mexico met in Xochitepec to share experiences and to collectively discern how they could best journey with the poor in the construction of a “new world.” Of course, all of the participants are involved in “evangelization,” but the question was more about how to best “incarnate” that evangelization in a reality of impoverishment, marginalization, exclusion, and oppression.
Some of the participants in the encounter of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit
The participants from Mexico City and Guadalajara and the states of Guerrero, Puebla, Tabasco, and Chiapas were thrilled to be in the mountains of Guerrero. The trip certainly involved sacrifices on their part, including getting wet several times as they travelled on the back of trucks to get from one place to another.
Leaving Xochitepec to drive to Ayutla de los Libres
Undoubtedly, the most “unique” part of the experience for the visitors was the visit to the village of Cuixinipa. The people there invited everyone to accompany them as they went to the top of the highest hill near their village to petition Saint Mark for a good rainy season. There, a lamb was slaughtered and buried, to “nourish” Saint Mark as he “worked” to enable the rains to come. Before the lamb was slaughtered, everyone was invited to breathe upon the lamb, so that their breath might give additional “spirit” to the lamb.
Father Pablo, from Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, breathes upon
the lamb that will shortly be sacrificed
During the meeting back in Xochitepec after this religious ceremony, the most common word I heard from the outside participants was “sacred.” Most had never participated in an indigenous ritual like this, and they were impacted by the deep faith of the people and the many symbols used in their ritual. Several priests even mentioned that the expression “Lamb of God” used of Jesus in the Scriptures has now taken on new meaning for them.
This is the lamb that was sacrificed in the hope of producing a good rainy season
I enjoyed the many discussions that the participants in the encounter had concerning the present economic, political, cultural, and religious reality of Mexico, and concerning the different projects being carried out in different places. There was an awareness that the governing authorities in Mexico are adopting strategies and projects that make the rich richer and the poor poorer. There is almost an “assault” on the indigenous cultures—and maybe I should remove that word “almost”: the programs being implemented by the different levels of government force the people to “set aside” their traditional community-based ways of life in order to receive the “benefits” of the government-run programs. One expression heard often was “mechanisms of death.”
The village "pray-er" incenses the offerings; notice the many candles: fire is an
especially vibrant symbol of God's presence in this culture
Mission Mexico will continue striving to support efforts where cooperation, creativity, imagination, solidarity, justice, community, and other “gospel values” are promoted as the impoverished peoples struggle to find ways to work together toward the life that every human being deserves. Thanks to all those who support Mission Mexico. Your solidarity is making a difference here in the mountains of Mexico. God bless.
The new "mud tires" on the Mission Mexico truck give an extra sense of security
while driving on these muddy mountain roads in the rain

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