Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Haiti 2012 - Getting there is more than just traveling

Traveling is almost always tiring. In the case of going to the remote mountains of Haiti, it can be an ordeal. God saw fit to grease the skids for us this time down...meaning all flights were on time as hoped. Tuesday started at 3:30 am to prepare for the trip to the Miami airport...the 2 hour flight to Port-au-Prince was uneventful and allowed a bit of napping. When Haiti came into view, our eyes were fixed out the window taking in all we could with that single sense of sight: The bare mountains, tan, dry earth, the beautiful blue water with the occasional small home-made sail boats used by the fisherman, and the increasing amount of white stuff floating in the water (presumably trash).
I expected to see widespread devastation as a result of the earthquake, but other than the increase of blue roofing and occasional tarps, it looked just as I had left it three years ago... Lots of tin roofs and half-built houses. We were surprised to get to use a gangway to enter the airport...a luxury I had never experienced in Haiti...but evidence of the earthquake soon became evident as many parts of the airport are under reconstruction.
Other than a 2 mile drive to the other end of the airport, we elected not to stick around in Port-au-Prince...having heard of recent unrest where the people are most desparate. The other senses started kicking in... The smells of diesel, the feel of heat and humidity as the temperature neared 90 degrees, the sounds of men speaking Creole fast and ardently... Chickens and pigs roaming... It is definitely a different world here.
The other sense to get in on the action in the sense of Time. Waiting is a constant reality. Wait in line. Wait for the flight. Wait to land. Wait for them to get our bags. Wait for the NEXT flight to arrive so hopefully your bags will arrive (and they did!).
The main roads are still in good shape (thank God!), but we still had a couple hours of driving on the REALLY bad road into the mountains. Surprisingly, the state has projects going to put concrete on some spots most prone to wash-outs, but all in all, I would say the road is worse than before (or at least as bad). The legs and rear-end were quite happy to disembark from the truck.
Our sense of taste finally got in on the action as we sat down to a dinner of beans and rice, fish, carrots, beets, peas, and bread. A feast fit for any Haitian Kind... but simple by our normal standards. (In our first 24 hours, we have already eaten more meat than the average Haitian eats in a month.) However, the food was delicious and the portions plentiful, so we quickly recuperated from our travels and settled in to learn more about the folks with whom we would spend the next week. Fr. Fanuel is a gracious host, trying his best to anticipate our every need. Baba is our interpreter. Max is the Jack of all trades who is here to help us make some progress on our projects.
Early to bed... To be awakened by the church bells at 6:15... That is...if we were actually sleeping through all of the roosters that started in at 4 am. I know by the end of the week we will be able to sleep through it as well as we sleep through a Homily at home. ;)
Today (Wednesday) we learned more about the political intricacies involved in making things happen in Haiti. Two years ago, there was running water in town. We found out that the water is not working. Great, we thought... We can fix that! However, there are multiple people and organizations involved, and Fr. Fanuel advised that we not touch that system this time. We came prepared to work on electrical systems, but priorities seem to have changed... So, we will be discussing this evening what CAN we do?!
It would be easy to allow the sense of frustration and hopelessness to overtake us when we hit roadblocks preventing us from accomplishing things. But then we spent an hour playing ball with the kids in the street and our sense of humanity and desire to help came back. The Lord tells us we must give preferential treatment to the needy. We NEED to help in order to bring about the Kingdom of God. Our sense of purpose prevails.
Now all of our senses are involved. I guess that means we are finally "there".

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Haiti 2012 - Headed to Dupity Monday

On Monday, March 26, 2012 - four of us will be headed to Louisville to start our journey to Dupity in Haiti.
Dupity is a village in the mountains in the northeastern section of Haiti. Gary Boice, Maddie Messmer, Eric Messmer, and Deacon Mike Seibert are going this time, and we would VERY much appreciate prayers for our Safety, Health, and that we may accomplish God's will.

IF we can get the generator running and fuel is available and IF the satellite works, we MIGHT be able to post blogs daily, so check back starting next Wed or Thurs.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Homily 2012 March 18 - that the Glory of God may be Revealed

If I was this blind man in the Gospel, I’d be downright ticked-off at God!  So let’ pretend for a minute I am that blind man.  (put on sunglasses)

I was just sitting here, minding my own business, sitting with all the other blind men at the entrance of the Temple begging – just like I do every day… then I heard somebody ask a question that caught my attention:  “was this man blind because of his own sin or the sin of his parents?”  My ears perked up – I’ve wondered the same thing my whole life.  See – it seems to me that… I was BORN blind, so there’s no way I could have sinned to deserve this, so it MUST have been my parents.  You know – I’ve never really forgiven them for that.

But the answer I heard confused me.  There was another man – It was a voice I didn’t recognize, but I  could tell he spoke with authority – He said I WASN’T blind because of sin.  What?  Not because of sin?!  Everybody KNOWS that blindness and physical ailments are signs that God is punishing somebody for sin… So why else WOULD I be blind?  I could hear that voice coming closer as he continued… this man is blind “so that the works of God might be made visible through him”.  Are you kidding?   I’ve spent 30 years blind – begging every day – starving half the time - and not only that, but think of what my parents had to go through:  Every time anybody looked at ME – they looked at my parents and said – They MUST be major sinners.  There were shunned by society.  And now you’re telling me that this was all some scheme that God cooked-up to allow Jesus to restore my sight today…. Just so he could work some ‘hocus-pocus’ to impress the crowds!??    Sorry, Jesus – but if that’s the kind of God you represent, I ain’t buying.  The God I know should PREVENT this kind of suffering.  The God I know should provide healing as soon as my parents asked for it… not 30 years later!  God is NOT supposed to CAUSE this kind of suffering!

When I got over my indignation, I got to thinking about what Jesus said… he said I’m not a sinner!... well.. I AM a sinner, but no more than anybody else!  My blindness was not a sign of my sinfulness.  That’s comforting.
Also – I’m actually kinda excited about the fact that I was part of Jesus’ plan.  He planned from the beginning that I would be a central part to helping people to believe in him.  The more I think about it – that is soooo cool.  My blindness and MY healing will be read about in churches for centuries to come and my blindness and my healing will help people to believe in Jesus.  I can’t think of a greater privilege.
(sun glasses off)

I wish it was dark outside.  Or - I wish we could do these readings on Holy Saturday night.  If you’ve never been here for the Easter Vigil service – you need to try it out.  You know – a lot of people don’t go, because it lasts longer than normal, but it is THE most beautiful liturgy of the whole year.  That is the night when all of our Lenten fasts are end, so we can eat ice cream .  That is the night when Jesus is risen.  That is the night when we baptize and confirm our new members into the Church.  But I want to talk about the Liturgy – what we DO at that Mass, because I think it sheds some light on our Gospel today. 

Picture this:  we start the liturgy with a campfire outside – sounds weird, right!  We START Mass with a campfire – but there are no hotdogs involved.  We bless the fire and the new Easter Candle.  See this candle back here – that’s the Easter candle from last year – it’s getting kinda short.  Well, at the Easter Vigil is when we get a NEW Easter Candle.  This candle represents Christ himself.  Why would we use a Candle to represent Jesus?  Even in today’s Gospel, Jesus told us “while I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  We say in our creed ‘God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God’.  Jesus IS our light.

So we bring that new Easter candle into the darkened church – symbolizing Christ coming into the world which is in darkness.  Now there are actually two symbols here – first – do you remember what the first thing was that God created in Genesis?  What did he say?  “Let there be Light”.  LIGHT was the first thing God created.  Imagine being there when it happened… total darkness and then BOOM…LIGHT!  Must have been amazing.  Later, Jesus was born in the darkness of a cold December night.  December just happens to be the time of year with the shortest days… that’s the darkest time of year in the Northern Hemisphere – so once again, God was bringing light to a world in darkness…and that’s what it’s like when we bring that candle into the dark church.
It gets even better though… like I said, all the lights are off – and Each person in the church has a candle and lights it from the Easter candle – symbolizing that each of us receives our light from Christ.  We receive our faith from Jesus!  If Jesus was not in the world, there would BE no source of Faith.  The fire is then passed down the rows from person to person – symbolizing that we pass-on our faith from person to person until… until the whole church is lit with the light of Christ… symbolizing what the world will be like once we have all spread the light of Christ to every corner of the globe.

Do you see how this connects with today’s Gospel?  This man born blind represents you and me.  All of us are born in darkness – in other words – none of us is born knowing Christ.  We don’t have the light of faith yet.  Now – notice the different stages of the journey this man took.  At first, when they’re questioning him, he says, ‘this man, Jesus put mud on my eyes and made me see’.  Later when they’re questioning him he says, this man is surely a prophet.  Still later, he comes to the conclusion that He must be from God, because only someone from God could make a blind man see.  Did you see the progression?  First Jesus is just a man, then he recognized him as a prophet, then ‘from God’.  Finally, after he’s thrown out of the temple, Jesus meets up with him and asks – do you believe in the Son of Man…. And the man believes and worships him as God… THE God.  God from God, Light from Light.

Our Catechumens have been on a journey for months now – going to classes, opening their minds and hearts and eyes to try to understand more about our Catholic Faith – and more about Jesus himself. 

Their journey – and ours - are much like the blind man’s journey.  We are born in darkness – not knowing Jesus.  It’s a lifelong process of getting to know him.  At some point, we all must let Jesus open our eyes so that we can look into the light… and then – just like the candles at the Easter Vigil – we CATCH FIRE!  Then we SPREAD that fire to everyone we come in contact with.  We BECOME the Light of Christ…. So that the Glory of God may be revealed – through US.