Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Descended into Hell
Travel and postponed travel (we're waiting to go to Israel and are already two days delayed because of weather) have meant no postings lately, but we'll keep trying!
The last couple of weeks have been full, as I completed my time in Florida, where I visited several communities: Indiantown, Jupiter, Homestead, and Immokalee. In the next couple of weeks I hope to "process" through the many incredible experiences and great conversations I was able to have. I have been overwhelmed by people's openness and willingness to share their story, and amazed by the incredible stories that each individual carries. The challenge to find ways to translate these experiences and insights into ways that others can share in at least a part of my own experience is growing tougher!
I started reading Border of Death, Valley of Life, by Daniel G. Groody. He is a Catholic priest who is now the director of the Latin American Spirituality Center at Notre Dame University. He produced one of the videos we discussed at Holden in December, and also wrote an excellent article that Sister Mary had sent to me. In the article, he manages in just a few pages to capture the reality of global migration and its huge significance to the work of the church. I have just read the preface (by Virgilio Elizondo), introduction, and first chapter. In the Introduction, Groody has this great quote about a ministry—in Coachella, California of all places, a community where I've had connections to through our work at Luther—that truly lived out the mission of the church:
These immigrants were not simply playing around in their own self-actualization sandbox (in contrast to some spirituality currents in U.S. American society), but they were living out a central value that profoundly transformed their lives and led them to commit themselves to the needs of their neighbors. P. 3
The first chapter of the book provides an introduction to the very difficult reality that forces people to migrate, and particularly to the dangerous and life changing experience of the border crossing for undocumented immigrants. The focus of his work is on Mexican immigrants, but as he states, the insights and connections are universal in many ways. What I found particularly important in this introduction is the way that Father Groody outlines and acknowledges the psychological and spiritual devastation that the migration experience has on many immigrants. By te end of the chapter he parallels this experience to the crucifixion, seeing in peoples’ journey through a “hellish” desert as Jesus’ own descend into hell. The hope is one of redemption, sacrificial love, the hope of resurrection. This parallel not only illuminates our own understanding of Scripture and of Jesus’ suffering—not as unique, but rather as in partnership with those who suffer—but also frames the immigrants’ own experience in a new way.