We past two cemeteries, it is believed that each belonged to a different class of people in this society. they were right across the street from each other. Both were now considered full. The rich cemetery was more ornately adorned and significantly more well kept. The poor one was in disrepair and seemed rather neglected. The rich one had tombs above ground where the bodies were placed – the belief being that being above ground was that much closer to heaven. The poor one buried people beneath the ground. these of course it is believed will take just a little bit longer to get to heaven on resurrection day.
Even in death the poor get the shaft it seems.
When we were here at the service last Sunday it was interesting to listen to the rhetoric used to talk about the nature of the people’s faith. Perseverance in the face of struggle, joy in the face of hardship, acknowledging pain and horror as a common way of life and identifying Jesus as dear helping friend. This is the narrative that they told themsleves. While it may not be typical of all the thematic material that these people cover in their in spiritual journey it certainly seems common. This narrative of peace in the face of conflict takes on a much different flavour when on the way home you also see a young man carrying a three foot coffin on a motorcycle. It certainly takes on a completely different tone than it does in any context that I have heard in Canada.
The pastor said that when we get to heaven we all will understand each other but the main language will be Spanish. Rousing cheers errupted – and I certainly would not be opposed to that. The pastor also kept reminding us that we have the same faith no matter where we come from. There are not borders with Jesus he told us. But I can’t help thinking that while the sentiment might be good for a sense of community building it really stands on some pretty feeble logic.
The fact is there are huge differences in our faith. The one out here has to be able to sustain people in ways that we hardly ever encounter back home. It must hold them in a quotidian struggle against the inherent level of difficulty that they face. Some might say its a more simplistic faith. We squabble over cerebral issues in the minutia of Christology for instance. How do we justify the luxury of those debates?
We live unconscious to the reality of the hard world that searches for meaning here. We live oblivious of how the narrative they speak to each other helps them to hang on a little longer. The horizon of their hope is in their next step, the next sunrise. Yet their kindness and joy pours out of every pore as easily as sweating in the hot sticky sun. How is it that complaining is so easily on our lips…
The arrogance of our position is not lost on me. But it does little to scold myself or anyone else. In the end it seems a rather pathetic and plastic faith that we own in North America – that I own… Caught up in trivialities that leave us vulnerable to the sins of greed, lust, complacency and ultimately arrogance. Like the arrogant rich buried apart from the poor.
For my part, I might hope that I might be worthy to be buried with the poor on their side of the street. And bury me as deep underground as you care to dig. Right there in that cemetery if you like. If what they say is true I certainly might be one of the last to arrive at the pearly gates but then maybe I’ll get one last glimpse of this paradise before I wander upstairs. And if I happen not to make up there and must return to this place – that might be wonderful reward – to wander around here for eternity eating cajeta de coco.
Bury me on the poor side please – if you think I’m worthy…
It was ironic as we drove by that the passage about dividing the sheep and the goats came back to as did the passage about it being harder for the rich ot enter the kingdom of heaven. The sheep were on the right and the goats were on the left to be banished forever in that parable of Jesus.
As we drove up the hill the rich cemetary was on the left…