Saturday, April 19, 2014

Good Friday in Downtown Albuquerque A Day of Mixed Emotions

As I was walking on the sidewalk outside Immaculate Conception Church to my car, perhaps 20 minutes after the Urban Way of the Cross had ended, a man stopped to ask me a question. "Excuse me sir," he said. "I heard there was going to be a Way of the Cross ceremony here today. Did I miss it?" The man was wearing dirty clothes and was carrying a soiled backpack. He might have been homeless. I looked him directly and said, "yes, we did have a Way of the Cross ceremony here this morning. I'm sorry you weren't able to join us." He looked at me with a somewhat disappointed look and thanked me for the information. All I could do at this point was to thank him for asking. He smiled and walked away.

The contrast of this day did not escape me. The route of our walk went in front of police headquarters and the site where just a couple of weeks ago hundreds of citizens gathered to protest police mistreatment of the homeless community, and in particular the senseless and unnecessary shooting of a homeless man. Our task at the police station was different. We were charged with offering quiet indignation along with prayers.

Indignation and Mourning
As I thought back on the different reflections that were presented this morning, I realized that our task this day was to contemplate on human rights. The Christ whom we mourn this day was the victim of torture and capital punishment.

None of our seven stations this morning addressed those topics specifically, but we examined how we as a society are complicit in other areas. Why are some people in our society not paid fair wages? Do we discard returning citizens, especially women, after they are released from prison? Do those in authority (and ourselves) treat people differently based on appearance? Why do many families in our country not have access to wholesome food (or any food)? Why do we mistreat undocumented immigrants? Why is creating community not as important as housing a homeless person? Is hospitality at the center of our work with the homeless community? We not only mourned and expressed indignation.  We prayed in song after each of our reflections.

Blessing and Gratitude
But Good Friday is not just about mourning. This day is also about blessings, although different than those we experience on Easter Sunday. The Creator gives us an opportunity on this day to contemplate, and contemplation offers a deep sense of cleansing.
Walking deepens our sense of contemplation, even if it's on the sidewalks of downtown Albuquerque instead of a labyrinth.

And as we take in the quiet and the stillness (even with occasional cars buzzing by), we make that connection with the Creator. And at that point, we cannot help but feel a sense of gratitude.

This is what my prayer was when I was anointed on the forehead with oil. Thank You God.  I was thankful not only for myself, but for everyone there, especially the woman who joined us in the pilgrimage on her electric wheelchair. I saw the face of God in the gentleness of  the small service dog she was embracing on her lap. I'll remember the woman and her doggie on Easter Sunday.We know and feel Resurrection with a a big Hallelujah!, which is what we will celebrate on Sunday. But after that moment is over, then there is the quiet and steady Hallelujah, the moment when we realize that God loves not only me personally but all of humanity.

Click here for photos from the 2014 Urban Way of the Cross

(Ellen Buelow, a member of the Bread for the World leadership team in New Mexico and a volunteer with Catholic Charities, offered the reflection on food insecurity at the fourth station. The reflection lasts about 4 1/2 minutes).

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