Unshakable faith in Palestine and Peru
Today’s powerful scripture epitomizes our Lenten Devotion theme of “Encountering God: What Have We Witnessed?” and the Easter Sunday sub-theme of “Go and Tell.” In just 208 words, and without embellishment, the Gospel writer conveys the essence of Christianity – that Jesus Christ died, was buried and rose again and that his life-sustaining gift is available to all who control their fears and believe.
The men in Matthew 28: 1-10 guarding the tomb in Jerusalem did not believe; when the angel of the Lord appeared and there was a great earthquake, the guards “shook and became like dead men.” Living in Peru for the past nine months (and growing up in California), I’ve felt many earthquakes and know they can paralyze people with fear.
The women who were visiting the tomb were frightened by the quake and angel, but the two Marys were courageous believers, so they also felt “great joy” when told that Jesus had risen from the dead. They were rushing to tell the disciples about the resurrection when they saw Jesus. They immediately “took hold of his feet and worshipped him.” Because of their unshakable faith, the women believed and went to “go and tell” what they had witnessed – a physical encounter with God.
Today’s scripture resonates with me because of the many Marys – or Marias – I have met and seen since my spouse, Judy Weaver, and I arrived in Peru to help Goshen College students learn and serve. Like the Marys who knew Jesus, many of Peru’s Marias are the “least of these” – afraid, oppressed and abused, but they also are faithful, brave and often joyful. I have seen many women working long hours as maids, selling goods in chaotic markets or dangerous streets, raising children alone and carrying huge bundles that would stagger strong men. Yet they persevere, serve, and crowd churches to offer prayers of thanksgiving.
Since arriving in Peru, Judy and I have witnessed the good – great hospitality, tasty cuisine, an immense coastal city (Lima), soaring mountains, lush jungles and ancient civilizations. We have witnessed the bad – horrible traffic, pollution, poverty, sickness, neglect, injustice, crime and corruption. Still, what I will remember most about Peru are compassionate people – Jorge, Eduardo, Nestor, Miriam, Townsend, Maria, Benjamin, Livia, Gregoria, Eloy, John, Cindy, Elizabeth, Raquel, Patricia, Henry, Romulo and Gustavo – who are advancing God’s hope, healing and social justice among the poorest of the poor. Their work is rooted in unshakable faith – the Easter spirit of overcoming fear and serving others with joy and love. And that is the gift of the risen Lord. Alleluia!