“Resurrection is not just a question of one day, after death, rising from the dead, but it is also about daily rising from the mini-graves within which we so often find ourselves.” – Ron Rolheiser (The Passion and the Cross)
by SR. MARJORIE GUINGONA, SAC
April 23, 2019 Easter Sunday Jinotepe, Nicaragua
A cacophony of animal sounds woke me up on this cool dawn of Easter Sunday reminding me that it’s time to get up and go back to the city. I felt a tinge of sadness for having to say goodbye to don Andrés and the rest of the family who have warmly welcomed me and made me feel at home throughout my weeklong stay in their humble home for the Holy Week mission. But more than anything else, a profound sense of joy and gratitude overflowed in me for the countless blessings received from them and the opportunity to journey with their small faith community in observance of the Paschal Triduum celebrations.
I remember arriving there at the foothills in Lower Salmeron for the first time a week ago. No public transportation serves this remote area due to the rough roads and the villagers would have to walk more than 3 kilometers before they can catch the bus that goes to the town proper of San Nicholas and Estelí. Fortunately, the brother of don Andrés who lives at Upper Salmeron had a pickup truck and was kind enough to drop me to my destination as he was on his way to deliver some goods in the next village along with some other passengers. My heart was beating fast and I was gasping for breath after I made the slow trek down the steep hillside with my heavy backpack. But thank God there were angels in disguise who came to accompany me in every step of the way until I finally reached the home of the Rocha family.
The act of going down the steep hills where the stones rolled on loose earth was an invitation for me to trust in God and to keep both feet firmly grounded in Jesus, He who humbled Himself for even though He is God, He took the form of a servant, to become and assume the conditions of humanity. (Phil. 2:6-11). The evening shadows came quickly by the time I arrived. And since there was no electricity down below save for a solar panel that would light up a single bulb once the darkness swallows the dusk, I was glad to take the much needed rest early so as to begin a new day the following morning.
Time just flew by so quickly despite the slow rhythm of life in this rustic rural setting as I simply went with the flow of life savoring each moment as it came. For one thing, being disconnected from the internet and technology allowed me to fine tune my senses to nature’s enthralling beauty and appreciate with childlike wonder the uniqueness of every living creature surrounding my day to day existence in the countryside. The house of the Rocha’s is a common home where a variety of animals coexist harmoniously with them. I have never been so amused as I was every time the chickens, roosters, parrots, pigs, dogs and cats would freely come in and out of their house in search for food and it didn’t really bother them. And so I learned to share my meals as well by throwing bits and pieces of corn tortillas or rice each time a few happen to be nearby watching me eat.
However, life of the rural poor is difficult for they have to work hard each day in order to survive and live contentedly despite the scarcity of water, the lack of access to the basic commodities and services that life in the city has to offer. And yet, they have re-evangelized me in countless ways and have taught me the values of simplicity, gratitude, respect, harmony, sharing, caring for one another and hard work which the fast paced urban living seem to have lost due to the many other worldly cares, pleasures and distractions. For one thing, I learned how to prepare corn tortillas the long and arduous way and doing so made me value the invaluable task of the women who quietly and faithfully work in the kitchen every single day in order to feed the entire family as well as the animals.
The simple and yet unwavering faith of the people is some inspiring for they are able to walk several kilometers along rough and winding roads as well as traverse narrow and isteep pathways just to reach the community chapel for the Holy Week Services. I can not forget don Felipe, an old man who went out on his own from the hillsides to join the Via Crucis. Somewhere along the way, he stumbled and fell to the ground but got up again and continued to walk on. Another man of deep faith is don Joaquin who have been blind for several years but it did not hinder him from participating in the Good Friday liturgical service. He listened to every reading and prayed devoutly with the community. Finally, it is the testimony of the women who I find most inspiring for they were always present and the first to arrive in all the activities. They are the silent majority in this small community who may not have had the opportunity to be empowered by the Church and society but their humble faith and devotion to the things of God is truly noteworthy. It is no wonder then that when Jesus rose from the dead, he first appeared to women!
Today on Easter Sunday morning, I firmly believe that the Lord is truly risen with an urgent message from an angel to the women to go back to Galilee with the words: “Why are you looking for the living among the dead. Go instead into Galilee and you will find him there!” (Cf. mt. 28:1-10) This Galilee is no longer a mere geographic location in the map, but to that place in the heart that most burned with joy and enthusiasm, the place of falling in love, of being inflamed with high ideals, to that dream yet unfulfilled. It is the road of discipleship where the journey all began, where we were before our hearts and ideals got crucified, the place inside us where trust and hope is reborn time and again.
As I find myself back to my world, I am acutely aware that we continue to live in very difficult times now more than ever. The hatred and violence goes on unabated with the latest tragic news of a wave of deadly bombings in Sri Lanka today on Easter Sunday killing more than 253 people. While here in Nicaragua, the socio- political and economic crisis is far from over where innocent and freedom loving citizens continue to languish in jail, tortured and punished simply for peacefully expressing their indignation against the repression and blatant human rights abuses committed by the conjugal dictatorship of Ortega and Murillo. There is restlessness everywhere and one could only question where the Risen Lord is specially now when our Christian faith seems to be put at its greatest test.
Yet, somewhere inside of me I hear the gentle voice of the Master telling me to keep on hoping against hope for God’s day will come and that the good will triumph in the end. What matters most is to keep the faith, hope and love alive inside our hearts. And what I experienced throughout this Holy Week mission of journeying with the rural poor in one of the most neglected sectors in the country is akin to that of the disciples on the road to Emmaus (see Luke 24:13-35) for the Risen Lord met us on the road less traveled, burned holes in our weary hearts, illumined the truth of the Paschal mystery in our doubting minds and urged us to return to Galilee to proclaim the Good News of our salvation here and now
Finally as I unloaded the heavy bag full of Easter gifts from my foster families, l am touched by their generosity for they gave the best of the little that they had: native eggs carefully wrapped in dried banana leaves, bags of red beans (frijoles), cuajada cheese, fresh tamarinds, tamales and bananas! All of a sudden, I felt as if as was still there in the mountain walking with them and singing joyfully the song Alleluia! The Lord is risen!