A few years ago, on the backroads of San Lucas Tolimán, Guatemala, I witnessed the women of that town, with their babies bundled on their backs, go to the mission’s pick-up truck to collect a sack of grain. Occasionally, a bag would burst, spilling onto the ground. The women quickly, but calmly, would bend down and rescue from the dust as much as their pockets would hold. Then they’d lick their fingers, and dab up what remained. Without even a glance over their shoulders, they would reach back and stick their grainy fingers into their children’s mouths. These mothers called this unexpected treat, “pan del cielo”—“bread from heaven”: God’s providence, the work of angels.
There are some people given to occasional bouts of cynicism and melodrama who, when they have to move forward into what may be difficult circumstances, might mutter, “I’d rather be dead.” We hear just that from Elijah today. He cries, “This is enough, O Lord! Take my life!” He’d had it, and really did want to die: he prays for death. What he gets instead is a cake and a jug of water. Strengthened by the food, he also received the courage to move forward through another forty days and nights: God’s providence, the work of angels.
There are times when we’ve had it, when it’s altogether too much—when we’re hungry, thirsty, tired, lonely, utterly spent: road-weary pilgrims. Imagine what those who are seeing their families torn apart are feeling. In the Midwest, the immigration office is headquartered here in St Paul, and is the third highest in the nation for ICE arrests, up 72% over last year. We may just want to die. So, we come here—not because there are ready solutions to be found. But here, in our composed, deliberate recollection, in the company of like-suffering pilgrims, good people, we sidestep death, we escape death. Here we taste and see the goodness of the Lord, we find the Bread of Life, and the courage to move forward—if only for today.
If God can use a sack of grain, cake and water, bread and wine to achieve His will, surely he can use us, ordinary people. Today, I extend to you an invitation to provide accompaniment—to be an acompañante, which asks you to consider making a commitment to walk with members of the local immigrant community who, for reasons pertaining to their immigration status, have to report to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), appear in immigration court, or request accompaniment for other civil or criminal encounters. For those who are interested, there will be training sessions taking place on Wednesday, August 22, in the evening and on Saturday morning, September 8. Please call the office to register if interested.
What we do here week after week, may seem to some eyes and minds, not very much. For us who believe, it’s nothing less than God’s providence, the work of angels.