I hope to travel to El Salvador during the first week of November. My brother has been working there as a lay missionary for nearly two years. I feel duty bound to visit and I have to confess I’m not looking forward to the trip. Firstly I have to survive two flights meaning I’ll be in the air for over 13 hours.
Before I even get to this point I have to organise injections with my doctor to protect against all sorts of diseases and most important of all I have to go and get my pot scraped before I step on the plane. I used to laugh when families were marched into the confessional before they flew off on holidays.
Doesn’t happen as much these days but personally I’m taking no chances. Even if I cope with the flight, I have to survive the climate, the food and my brother’s pigeon Spanish. Ordinarily it wouldn’t be a destination for my travels but circumstances in life can certainly broaden your horizons.
My brother is living in a village in the hills a few hours from the capital San Salvador. The good news concerns the weather; the rainy season has just ended meaning the country will be awash with green and every sort of wildlife which unfortunately includes insects.
El Salvador is still coming to terms with the painful legacy of a brutal civil war where the causalities were counted in the tens of thousands, probably as many as 75,000 deaths. As part of the developing world the country experiences the extremes of both poverty and wealth.
Many subsist on as little as a few dollars a week, being dependant on what they can grow, vulnerable to the weather and the change in seasons.
In circumstances such as these it’s not difficult to appreciate the fragile nature of life and the precarious situation faced by many people’s struggling in the world today. Yet the biggest struggle is trying to find hope and meaning in the face of hardship, despair, poverty and the legacy of war, injustice and the brutality of violence and evil.
Dr. Paul Wee of the Lutheran World Federation recalls standing at the bedside of dying archbishop, Janis Matulis, of Latvia. A visitor had just sung, at Matulis’ request, “Oh, when I am alone, when I am alone, give me Jesus.” Matulis then asked those around his bed: “Do you know why this song means so much to me? Three times war passed over Latvia, killing two-fifths of our people. They burned down my church and destroyed Bibles and hymnals. They took away my wife, and I never saw her again. When it was all gone, I realized that I had nothing else in this world but Jesus Christ. [That realization] was like a breath of freedom. From that moment on, I learned how to use whatever came my way - little bits of medicine left over, a piece of coal, so that somehow the sacrament of God’s love would be shared with the larger community because of Jesus Christ. When we love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and love our neighbour as ourselves, we come to a new understanding of who Christ is”. This is at the heart of our vision of what it means to be involved in the life and mission of the Church.
The challenge is to become aware of the sacrament of the everyday no matter where in the world we find ourselves.
We all have a responsibility to be missionary to everyone. In our words and actions we have to become creditable witnesses to our faith in Jesus Christ.
The dynamic of celebrating Mass has to enter into our daily lives, our celebration of the Eucharist never really concludes because we are sent out into the world charged with transforming people’s lives through sharing our encounter with the living God whom we meet in Jesus.
Only then will men and women of this world be given hope through meeting Jesus in the world of everyday things.
We have an opportunity to transform the ordinary and the mundane through witnessing to a humble, sincere and committed faith in a God who has revealed his love for all the nations of the world.
We have to become instruments of God’s healing and peace in a fractured and damaged world. This is the mission we entered through becoming members of Christ’s body.
We have a responsibility to become beacons of light guiding one another towards the father who searches for the lost and the alone.
Above all we have to learn to trust in Christ as the true rock and foundation in a changing and fragile world.
Through this deep faith we learn to become sacraments of God’s presence, allowing God to live his life in us, guiding and shaping our words and actions.
Today we pray for the strength and commitment to accept this challenge and allow the Christian vision to mould our attitudes, enabling us to reach out to our brothers and sisters in their hour of need and having the wisdom to open our hearts to learn from their experiences as we journey together with Christ.