Friday of the First Week of Advent
December 2, 2022
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Isaiah once again promises light despite the darkness, understanding despite the emptiness, life despite the devastating hold of poverty.
Thus says the Lord GOD:Isaiah 29:18-19
But a very little while,
and Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard,
and the orchard be regarded as a forest!
On that day the deaf shall hear
the words of a book;
And out of gloom and darkness,
the eyes of the blind shall see.
The lowly will ever find joy in the LORD,
and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
Isaiah’s promises shone a beacon of hope to the oppressed people of his time. As I pray with his words today, I am deeply aware of the oppressions of our own time and the people who suffer under them.
The Roses in December delegation marks the 42nd anniversary of the martyrdom of four U.S. women religious. On December 2, 1980, members of the U.S.-trained-Salvadoran National Guard raped and killed lay worker Jean Donovan, Maryknoll Sisters Ita Ford, MM, and Maura Clarke, MM, and Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel, OSU. The women had been accompanying the Salvadoran people displaced by war and poverty. Their witness cost them their lives. Their deaths shook the world and were emblematic of the violence suffered by the Salvadoran people and the power of accompaniment.
These women lived with the kind of hope and faith Isaiah describes. It is an active faith necessary in all times because, sadly, in all times there will be brutal and inhuman oppression of the vulnerable by the powerful. These woman chose to stand for the Gospel instead.
During an earlier anniversary of the Roses in December event, social justice activist Jean Stolkan asked the question, “What do these women call us to today?” Jean served in El Salvador herself and has continued to advocate for human rights and social justice. Jean is currently Social Justice Coordinator for the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. She offered these insights in answer to her question:
The challenges we face today are different from the challenges we faced when the four church women died. They call for new perspectives and new structures, new vision and new social movements to adequately respond to the need for justice for present and future generations.
Today our hearts go out to the peoples of El Salvador and Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, as they struggle with basic issues of survival and rebuilding of their lives after so many disasters: hurricanes and earthquakes, but also violence and poverty. We pray for an outpouring of compassion and solidarity, that we may continue to address in systemic ways the underlying human failings – structural poverty, racism, violation of human rights, destruction of the environment – that these and other natural and human disasters unmask with such brutal clarity.
Poetry: El Salvador – Javier Zamora
( Poet Javier Zamora was born in the small El Salvadoran coastal fishing town of La Herradura and immigrated to the United States at the age of nine, joining his parents in California. He earned a BA at the University of California-Berkeley and an MFA at New York University and was a 2016-2018 Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.)
Salvador, if I return on a summer day, so humid my thumb will clean your beard of salt, and if I touch your volcanic face, kiss your pumice breath, please don’t let cops say: he’s gangster. Don’t let gangsters say: he’s wrong barrio. Your barrios stain you with pollen, red liquid pollen. Every day cops and gangsters pick at you with their metallic beaks, and presidents, guilty. Dad swears he’ll never return, Mom wants to see her mom, and in the news: every day black bags, more and more of us leave. Parents say: don’t go; you have tattoos. It’s the law; you don’t know what law means there. ¿But what do they know? We don’t have greencards. Grandparents say: nothing happens here. Cousin says: here, it’s worse. Don’t come, you could be ... Stupid Salvador, you see our black bags, our empty homes, our fear to say: the war has never stopped, and still you lie and say: I’m fine, I’m fine, but if I don’t brush Abuelita’s hair, wash her pots and pans, I cry. Like tonight, when I wish you made it easier to love you, Salvador. Make it easier to never have to risk our lives.
Music: El Salvador – Peter, Paul and Mary
“El Salvador” is a 1982 protest song about United States involvement in the Salvadoran Civil War, written by Noel Paul Stookey and performed by Peter, Paul and Mary. The song originally appeared on the 1986 album No Easy Walk To Freedom.
There’s a sunny little country south of Mexico
Where the winds are gentle and the waters flow
But breezes aren’t the only things that blow in El Salvador
If you took the little lady for a moonlight drive
Odds are still good you’d come back alive
But everyone is innocent until they arrive in El Salvador
If the rebels take a bus on the grand highway
The government destroys a village miles away
The man on the radio says: “now, we’ll play South of the Border”
And in the morning the natives say
“We’re happy you have lived another day
Last night a thousand more passed away in El Salvador”
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
There’s a television crew here from ABC
Filming Rio Lempe and the refugees
Calling murdered children: “The Tragedy of El Salvador”
Before the government camera twenty feet away
Another man is asking for continued aid
Food and medicine and hand grenades for El Salvador
There’s a thump, a rumble, and the buildings sway
A soldier fires the acid spray
The public address system starts to play: “South of the Border”
You run for cover and hide your eyes
You hear the screams from paradise
They’ve fallen further than you realize in El Salvador
La la la, la la la la
La la la, la la la la la
Ooh, ooh ooh ooh ooh
Just like Poland is protected by her Russian friends
The junta is assisted by Americans
And if sixty million dollars seems too much to spend in El Salvador
They say for half a billion they could do it right
Bomb all day and burn all night
Until there’s not a living thing upright in El Salvador
And they’ll continue training troops in the USA
And watch the nuns that got away
And teach the military bands to play: “South of the Border”
Killed the people to set them free
Who put this price on their liberty
Don’t you think it’s time to leave El Salvador?
Oh, oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh, oh oh, oh oh oh oh oh