Friday, December 4, 2015

People on the Ground in the Kingdom of God

People who push the envelope in the “welcoming” congregations, people who make peace and serve the poor, the people in the working church, are the people on the ground in the kingdom of God, with or without God. They are the people of God, in the most radical, literal, material, and embodied sense, people who transform God’s insistence into existence and give God a good name. They are the way God acquires mass and body. They are what God does, what God means, what is getting itself done in and under the name “God.”
-       John D. Caputo, Hoping Against Hope: Confessions of a Postmodern Pilgrim (Fortress Press, 2015)

As the month of December advances and as the year 2015 draws to a close, I find myself reflecting more and more on how blessed I am to be here in the mountains of Mexico among so many wonderful human beings who “are the people of God, in the most radical, literal, material, and embodied sense.”
Lunch for lay religious leaders from the 28 villages in the parish of St. Mark Xochitepec
Many of these people were born here in the mountains and somehow have managed to escape the message of individualism and consumerism that tends to be promoted by the people and institutions with power in Mexico. No one is perfect, but these "friends" do what they can to promote a culture of respect, justice, dignity, empowerment, and love among the impoverished indigenous communities.
Franciscan Sisters of Divine Providence, the only group of sisters actually founded in the Diocese of Tlapa 
One such person is Edith NaSavi, a teacher at the local National Pedagogical University. Born in the mountains, she is involved in almost every struggle for justice that exists in the region, and she shares her vision for a just society with her students, with her friends, with the oppressed—and with the oppressors. If anyone is a “sparkplug” here, it is definitely Edith.
Edith visiting in San Marcos, municipality of Metlatonoc
Another such person is Abel Barrera, the founding director of the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center of the Mountain, located in his home town of Tlapa. His has been an untiring voice for justice for the indigenous peoples and for all who have been victims of human rights abuses. Abel is a poet whose studies in anthropology and theology allow him to express in a most beautiful way the longings of his people for true life.
Abel is the man in the middle, accompanied by Father Juan, Malu (international coordinator with
 Tlachinollan), Father Vicente, and Father Eugenio
Another such person is Father Adrian Hernandez, who just yesterday became the new parish priest in Huamuxtitlan, after seven years as the pastor of Copanatoyac. During that time he served as chaplain of the Champagnat High School of the Mountain, located in Potoichan. His witness and his commitment have surely marked the generations of students who have graduated from that institution.
Father Adrian is the man in the middle, accompanied by Marist Brothers Javier Francisco
(with guitar) and Salvador (with camera)
Other people have come from other parts of Mexico and have fallen in love with the noble people and their struggles. They offer who they are and what they have as they accompany the people in their many efforts to transform life here. A prime example is Father Juan Molina, parish priest in Xochitepec. If Juan had his way, he’d never have to leave the mountains. In his life, Juan is definitely one of those persons who "give God a good name," as philosopher John Caputo expresses it in the quote that began this note.
Father Juan anointing a very sick Delfina (covered in the blanket, lying on the bed)
while husband Tomás looks on
I could go on and on naming people, but I suspect that you are getting the idea. There is a whole community of heroic, noble people sharing their lives with the poor—and Mission Mexico works with these people and these groups to assist in this struggle for transformation. Thanks to all who help keep this struggle going. As the opening quote suggests, your support represents one of the ways that “God acquires mass and body” here in the mountains of Mexico. The people here know that, and they are most grateful to you for your solidarity. Gracias.
The one-hour walk down to get to Delfina's house wasn't so bad; the climb back up
involved a few breaks "to admire the view" (I don't think anyone believed that)

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