I have some simple thoughts to share with you after a very poignant and almost magical Friday evening I had last week. As most of you know, I am not Christian and I am not religious. So, please don’t read this message thinking that I am some sort of religious missionary or that I will soon be waving some relgious banner on Powell and Market Streets in San Francisco trying to relay some epiphany of mine. However, this church service I attended last Friday for work really made an impact on me.
Currently, I am in Mexico doing research on religious groups and their transnational ties to San Francisco. I was invited by a Jesuit to attend an altar ceremony last Friday at the Meson de la Misericordia (Inn of Compassion) in Guadalajara, an “inn” for HIV/AIDS patients and their families. People with HIV or AIDS go to the Meson for medical care, counseling, self help groups, spiritual guidance, food, clothing and temporary shelter. I was really tired when I got to the service and almost left, but I am so glad that I did not leave.
The Jesuit who led the service spoke about why this day is so important to Catholics. He said that in Catholic tradition, more emphasis is given to the death and pain of Jesus Christ with all of the cross symbols than to the message of his resurrection. Easter is the day of the resurrection of Christ, when he came back to the earth to give the message of hope.
He asked the people what is pain and suffering?
Pain is something normal to human kind and part of nature. We can live with pain in peace. Pain is hope, it is life, it is the resurrection.
Suffering is not part of the human condition, it brings us to anxiety and depression. We can eliminate suffering from our life, because it’s all in our mind.
Why do believers in Christ stress pain more than the hope brought by the Messiah? God brought us on the earth to be happy, not to create our own misery in our suffering. We can live with pain, because it can bring us hope.
Yes, we can create our own heaven and hell in our minds.
For me, what was most incredible about his talk was that he was speaking to people who are living with HIV-AIDS and perhaps some of them were “suffering” from it. The woman next to me told me that she has both AIDS and Diabetes and the short sermon put things into perspective for her. The last time she ended up in the hospital was because her blood sugar level skyrocketed due to her stress and suffering about her children. She said that she realized that she needs to take care of herself and stop worrying so much. Life will go on when she dies and her children will be able to live with out her.
I left the inn and walked to the Cabañas Cultural Center for a choir mass for the same altar ceremony. I walked around the Paseo Dellagado, a huge esplanade going from the Cathedral to the Cultural Center, admiring the gorgeous lavender Tabachin flowers on the Jacaronda (I am not sure of the name) trees thinking about what the priest said. During the incredible choir performance, I got goose bumps from the gorgeous music and the power of all of these beautiful voices singing in unison. While they sang, I glanced to my right and saw the changing colors of the horizon as the dusk hours went by. From hues of rose to purple to dark blue, the sky highlighted the outline of the Chapel, which now houses the impressive murals of Jose Orozco (one of Mexico’s great muralists). Despite the major destruction human can cause working along or together (just look at the photos from the destruction in Iraq), we can also create breathtaking masterpieces of art and music. I went to that concert because I heard one of the choir members singing one note as she was practicing at the cultural center a few days prior. Hearing her sing one note made me cancel my Friday night interview and go to the concert. Just one note made me put my work plans off! Imagine what the music of 30 choir members vibrated in me!
Friday April 11th- The day of the Virign of Dolores (Pain), the Friday before Good Friday