By, Pastor Julio Hernandez, Family Ministry Director, Christ Crossman United Methodist Church and Board member, Virginia Interfaith Center
It is with a heavy heart that I write this Easter Reflection. The material that we are called to remember is difficult. In the passion narrative, the people welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem (John 12:12-16). They shouted, “Hosanna!” In church this past Sunday we joined the throng. We waved palm branches and shouted our “Hosanna!”s.
This week Jesus walks the road to Calvary. He sits before a judge that recognizes Jesus’ innocence. Furthermore, Pilate’s wife pleads for her husband to disassociate himself with this person because she is tormented by nightmares about Jesus. Still, Pilate allows the crowd to give the final verdict — death on a cross. Jesus is sentenced to a death that is cruel and horrific. Pilate washes his hands and declares himself innocent. Pilate allows an awful sentence to stand. This is abuse and impunity at its worst. To sentence an innocent human to death.
The shadow of the cross is where we find ourselves in this Holy Week.
I wonder if we have as a country really sat at the foot of the cross. We are willing to chant our “Hosanna”s in the houses of worship and proudly proclaim that we are Christians. And yet we are reluctant to come to terms with the social forces that totally dehumanize and destroy the lives of our fellow human beings.
A father and daughter made the journey North. They joined 161 other migrants on a treacherous journey to seek a new life. They turned themselves into law enforcement close to Camp Bounds, New Mexico. The father, Nery Caal did not speak English and Spanish was not his first language. In custody, little Jakelin Caal Maquin began to get sick. On December 8, 2018, Jakelin Caal Maquin died.
We would like to wash our hands of her death either by blaming her father, US Borders and Customs Patrol or the administration’s policies on immigration. However, we need to stop and ask why a family would decide to take such a perilous journey with little guarantee of success. Why would any child be willing to leave their known community and put their lives at risk? The will to live is strong in a little child’s heart. Jakelin wanted to live a better life.
Jakelin Caal Maquin, like Jesus, was innocent. It is possible she understands better what it is like to share in Jesus’ sufferings. And in this way, her own family may be able to offer deeper insight into Jesus’ Passion.
Mary knows what it was like to hold a precious baby, and then to see outside forces play upon the body of her child, to be abused, beaten and ultimately executed. Jakelin’s family suffered an unimaginable loss. The calculus of survival is complex.
We in the Church cannot turn away. Much like the Lenten season, we are called closer to the pain. Oscar Romero, the former Archbishop of El Salvador, preached about this movement. While celebrating the Lord’s Table a sniper’s bullet pierced his body. Just moments before he was shot he spoke these words:
“May this body that was immolated and this flesh that was sacrificed for humankind also nourish us so that we can give our bodies and our blood to suffering and to pain, as Christ did, not for our sake but to bring justice and peace to our people.”
My prayer is that we can draw closer to the cross. Too many lives are being lost at the border. And simple handwashing and finger-pointing will not suffice, but will instead fall empty in this season of Lent. Here is Jesus. And we might miss Jesus if we continue to ignore those who suffer like him, being uprooted from home and love by better dreams, dreams that nevertheless lead to Calvary.
Can we draw closer to the suffering in the world and there, together, find a way of peace, justice, and love? Can we see the earth be transformed from a place of suffering, hunger, and despair into a place of wholeness made possible through the compassion Jesus taught us?