The light of unfathomable love – Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Lent

The Mexican city of Matamoros lies just across the border from Brownsville, Texas. It’s the site of a migrant camp that first appeared in 2018. Thousands are surviving in makeshift shelters covered with mesquite branches and rubbish along the muddy banks of the Rio Grande. They’ve been driven from their homes by gang violence and economic collapse. Matamoros is their last hope for a new life in the United States.

Last Easter, three priests from Brownsville made their way across the Gateway International Bridge from the USA to Mexico to celebrate the Easter liturgies with the migrants. The priests brought everything needed for the three liturgies, including a stack of bilingual hymnals, metal folding chairs, candles, bread and wine. A stack of wooden pallets became the altar beneath a twisted mesquite tree. The priests had collected a stack of flattened cardboard boxes to serve as a “floor” to protect everyone from the muddy ground.

On Holy Thursday, migrants donated some of their precious allotment of water. In a migrant camp, water is a fiercely guarded commodity — but people happily gave what little clean water they had for the ritual of washing one another’s feet. Their generosity gave special meaning to the rite.

On Good Friday, the centre of the liturgy was a ten-foot-tall cross that a migrant made from two giant pieces of scrap. They walked the way of the cross through the middle of the muddy camp, a moving sign of God’s presence in this Godless place.

On Holy Saturday, they gathered to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection. A small fire was lit in a bowl. Worshippers lit candles from the small flames. Lux de Cristo! one of the priests sang. Gracias a Dios! the people responded. And with bread and wine on a stack of wooden crates, a people trapped in a “tomb” of political and economic dysfunction celebrated their faith that Jesus is risen and walks with them still.

In the midst of the muddy hopelessness of a migrant camp, the light of Christ illuminates their care for one another. Today’s Gospel speaks of Christ the light that we behold within ourselves and that has the power to illuminate the wisdom and truth outside of us. In the light of God’s Christ, we realize the good in ourselves that we often do not see; in the light of such unfathomable love, we find joy and reason to be grateful for the good that others bring to our lives; in the light of the Risen One, we experience hope – and we become the means for such hope – for those trapped in dark tombs of poverty, violence and abuse.