This past Holy Week was busy, and I apologize for not writing sooner. Our team has been traveling a LOT this past month and a half. At the beginning of March, we helped host a medical mission trip where we served over 800 people at free clinics around Picota (I posted a reflection after the mission trip in my last blog post here). At the end of March, all the missionaries in Peru with FMC gathered in Moyobamba (about 3 hours north) for a community retreat. We were able to pray together, share our struggles, and have fun. Immediately after the retreat, the women’s team as well as two of the guys from the men’s team traveled to Trujillo on a 17-hour bus ride through the Andes mountains for language school. We stayed in Trujillo for 2 weeks to better our Spanish and understand more fully the way people speak in Peru. We got back to Pucacaca a little over a week ago where we then entered Holy Week with our town starting with Palm Sunday.
On Palm Sunday, Padre Francisco came to Pucacaca to celebrate Mass and started the celebration by riding around the plaza on a donkey. The church was full and it seemed the whole town came to watch Padre ride the donkey! On Tuesday, we were able to pick up some school uniforms and delivered them to some of the kids in grade school in Pucacaca.
Holy Thursday and Good Friday were spent in our town celebrating a Liturgy of the Word Service (in place of Mass because Peru doesn’t have enough priests). Holy Saturday, our team attended the vigil service in Picota which was very similar to a vigil service in the States, just in Spanish. Easter Sunday, our team celebrated by sleeping in an extra half hour and having breakfast with crepes thanks to one of the girls on our team. That afternoon we gathered together as a community at a local pool. Then, Sunday night we attended a Liturgy of the Word service in Pucacaca which leads me to today….
On this Tuesday, this Tuesday of the Easter Octave, I am angry. In fact, I am furious and so frustrated that I found myself in tears this morning during our community prayer time. I am angry because I have realized the necessity of missionary presence.
This past Sunday, just two days ago, we celebrated Jesus conquering sin and death after dying on the cross—arguably the most important day in the year. Only a handful of people showed up for the Liturgy of the Word service. I would like to say that it’s because people took the little bit of extra money to travel the 15 minutes down the road to go to Mass in Picota, but I know this to be a lie.
My heart burns with anger at the thought of Jesus being so alone on Easter when just one week prior, a crowd followed Padre on a donkey. Yet, God reminds me that this is how Jesus died—with only a few people at His feet and a couple guards to make sure He was dead, when just one week prior, a crowd laid palms at His feet.
“Standing close to Jesus’ cross were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing there: so he said to his mother, ‘He is your son.” -John 19: 25-26
All Jesus’ closest friends betrayed Him and left Him to die alone, because they were afraid or thought something as small as money was more important than Him. Jesus was abandoned, left with only a couple people to be with Him when He died. Even in His resurrection, the disciples didn’t understand the miracle that had just occurred:
“They still did not understand the scripture which said that he must rise from death. Then the disciples went back home.” -John 20: 10
So, instead of dwelling in this frustration, I will take this fire and use it to remind myself and to remind you of the necessity of missionary activity. St. John Paul II says it best:
“My direct contact with peoples who do not know Christ has convinced me even more of the urgency of missionary activity… The number of those who do not know Christ and do not belong to the Church is constantly on the increase” (Encyclical Letter of John Paul II: Mission of the Redeemer, p. 9, 12).
In fact, I want to remind you that “missionary activity is a matter for all Christians” (Encyclical Letter of John Paul II: Mission of the Redeemer, p. 10). You most certainly do NOT have to be in a foreign country to be a missionary, and you do NOT have to be affiliated with any organization to bear the title, because you already have it. At Baptism, you were called to be a missionary and proclaim God’s promise to a stranger, to your neighbor, and to your family.
So, next time someone asks you about how your Easter was, how about telling them the truth of the urgency of God’s promise?