Last night and this morning I wondered if I’d make it there. The clutch went on my truck and it was fixed last night – except that it went out again on the ride home from the mechanics. However, it was fixed enough for me to make it.
After stopping in Dulce Nombre to pick up the blessed ashes and Communion, I headed out. The day was sunny and warm, with a beautiful blue sky with incredible clouds.
I got to Quebraditas with its pink church a few minutes early, but no one was around. I waited a bit and the pastoral workers started to arrive. People started coming and we started about 3:35. What’s a few minutes, anyway?
The Celebration of the Word with communion was simple. I gave a reflection, distributed the ashes, prayed and then distributed Communion.
The reflection was focused on what Lent is.
I started by asking what day it is – Ash Wednesday, they said. Then, inspired, I asked about ashes. I forgot to say that the ashes were from burnt palms. But I thought aloud about how firewood is transformed into ashes and gives off heat. In the transformation something good is released: heat to cook food. And so Lent is about transformation.
Then I asked about Lenten practices: fasting, prayer, and sharing with the poor.
I began reflecting on the fact that the lives of the poor are continual fasts. I mentioned that Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent are meatless days and asked the people how many times a week they ate meat. Wrong question! I should have asked how many times a month, because for many of the people meat is a once a month luxury.
I talked a bit about prayer and sharing with those most in need.
After the Celebration of the Word I went with several of the men to visit a homebound sick man, named Efraín. He has problems walking and part of his left foot was amputated.
As is my common adventure I got stuck in the mud going there. (It wasn’t from rain but from “miel,” the water that comes off from washing coffee.)
We finally got there and Efraín was standing outside. He sat down and I greeted hm and prayed with him. I put ashes on his head and on the other folks in the house and then I gave him Communion.
As I crouched to speak to Efraín, I noticed his feet – gnarled nails on his right foot.
Before I left the other pastoral workers prayed with me around Efraín and urged them to see what they can do to help him and his family.
How many people here live an almost eternal fast. How many share in the sufferings of Christ. How many are generous with others.
Efraín, seated in the porch of his house, will be a reminder this Lent of our call to share with the poor, to pray with them, to fast so that others may eat. I will try to remember him this Lent as a way to call myself to a fitting Lenten discipline.
Before I left Quebraditas, Cirilo who sang and was one of the readers at our Celebration of the Word, gave me a whole bunch of bananas, quite off the tree. They have to mature for 8 to 15 days, but on the branch there are way too many for me to eat. So I dropped them off at the Franciscan sisters down the street to share with the girls who live there.
The poor shared with me. They are so generous with so little.
So this Ash Wednesday I had at least two lessons from the poor - what is true fasting and what is true sharing. And I was given the blessing to meet and bring communion to one of the poor of the earth.
It's been a blessed and joy-filled Ash Wednesday.