8 May 2011. 3rd Sunday of Easter
Acts 2:14,22-23; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Luke 24-13-35
I saw them kiss. Josefina and Anteo were lining for breakfast at the Comedor, the feeding center of the Kino Border Initiative. They were migrants, recently deported from the United States. They were picked up by the US Customs and Border Protection together, but were deported separately. Josefina was deported at the Deconcini Gate in the Arizona-Sonora border, while Anteo was thrown out of American territory miles away in Tijuana, the California side. Anteo made it back to Guatemala, while Josefina stayed at the women’s shelter of the KBI, managed by the Missionaries of the Eucharist.
I met Josefina at the Comedor. She volunteered to help us out after serving the meals. While slicing calabasita, she told me that she had four children, whom she left with her mother. She and Anteo had to leave home for a better life for them. Since Anteo was able to make his way again from Guatemala, they would try to cross the border again. All for the love of their children. Today, they bid us goodbye. They will take the dangerous road back to the US before more troops are deployed following the death of Osama bin Laden.
The journey these migrants take is everything but easy. Migrants from Guatemala hitch a ride to the US-Mexican border by the train that carries produce from Central America to the US. They hang on steel ladders of a train car and make their way to the roof. There they wait until the train stops at their destination. From there, they cross the inhospitable desert, wrestling with death itself. In 2010, 214 human remains were found in the Arizona desert; 78 casualties is the present record from October 2010-March 2011.
If you meet these migrants after deportation, what would you say? They come dazed and disoriented. They look at you with great questioning. Crossing the border unauthorized is not right, but for those without means, the law does not matter as much as their families. Isn’t it that the survival of loved ones is more important than territory?
The Gospel today tells the story of Cleopas and another disciple (perhaps, his wife? And why not?) They both leave Jerusalem, the place where their hopes have been shattered. Their minds are with Jesus whom they thought would liberate them from the oppression of Rome. They are walking towards Emmaus, which the Romans called, Nicopolis or “Victory City.” They badly need a victory. Like Josefina and Anteo. Like many migrants we serve everyday.
How are you to talk to people with shattered dreams? In the midst of great tragedy, we are all left without words. Sometimes I find that there is something wrong when we say, “Everything will be alright.” In one way, it is correct and true. There are many bad situations that ends well. But in some situations, the condition may not turn out well, except when miracles happen. When I was chaplain of the UP Maroons, it was easy to talk about hope at the first few games. But loosing continually and nearing the end of the UAAP matches, it seems futile to talk about hope when you only have one game to play and we haven’t won a single game. Definitely, making it to the top five will not happen. Or extreme cases like the terminally-ill. What then would hope be?
As the two disciples walk towards the Victory City, the True Redeemer walks alongside them. He listened while the disciples pour out their frustration. Jesus responds by recalling the Scriptures, eventually giving them a new story and a new way of looking at the events that frustrated them. They also got something: an enflamed heart. Jesus helped them make sense all that has happened.
I believe this is the hope that the Lord gives us. He doesn’t remove our problems: when we are able to solve them, we then encounter new ones. But we are able to find meaning in our frustrations. The terminally-ill renews their spirit by gathering the people who makes their entire life meaningful; the student who fails a subject learns from the fall; Anteo and Josefina makes the journey courageously, fired by the love they have for their children.
Hope then is an orientation of our spirit. It is either we hope or we don’t. We either move on or we regress. It is different from happiness, when we dream that everything will turn out well.
In the Gospel, it is clear that the hope Jesus gives is an enflamed heart witnessed in the accounts of the disciples in the first reading from Acts. It is the inspiration and energy the early disciples possess, that ability to work for the good, because it the right thing to do, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. Hope is not the conviction that everything will turn out well, but that everything makes sense in the view of eternity. Think of the great exemplars of holiness. The martyrs died but their death to them and to us today has sense. Think of our heroes, their lives become our bread on which we live. Think of our parents, their hardwork has made us who we are today. Think of Jesus: the stone the builders rejected became the cornerstone.
The Gospel then invites us to see the world and our lives in the perspective of eternity. Just as the disciples gain a new sight that enabled them to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread, we pray that the Lord transform our blindness and give us new eyes and a renewed hope.
– Posted by Jboy Gonzales SJ using BlogPress. Copyright 2011.
Location:Nogales, Sonora, Mexico