San Pedro Sula
The Two Faces of Jesus
For all my adulthood, I have struggled with the Church's Maundy Thursday
ritual of foot washing. Those of you from the
Christian community know the event that we celebrate during Holy Week. The
Sunday beforehand, the pastor announces it. (I think this is code for "women
are encouraged not to wear their panty hose" or “make sure your socks have no
holes”). The leaders of the church implicitly are expected to participate and a
few brave souls join them. The remainder of the parish sits in the pew, starts
side pools on who will make that long walk up the aisle, and then proceeds to
watch folks dip their toes into pans that usually hold weekend tennis-sprained
ankles. Downy softened towels soon dab away any remaining droplets of water.
For me, our re-enactment doesn't work. It has lost its power and
relevance. Jesus' original act was one of service and humility.
There just isn't any cultural deed analogous to this. Or so I thought
until I visited San Pedro Sula, on our trip to Honduras.
A city of 650,000 like San
Pedro Sula has many stories. One of them that might have gone unnoticed
but it unfolded right before our eyes as we walked on the sidewalk
near the Museum of Anthropology and History. There, sitting on a curb was a street
person, as despondent as any human being I have seen. He was clothed only
in his under-shorts next to a pile of rags that ten minutes before had been his
clothes. A gnarled mane of hair and a bearded face looked at us.
Alcohol? Mental illness? Series upon series of misfortunes?
I will never know but what occurred next was forever etched into my memory.
Briskly walking down his driveway, a second man appeared from
the side of his home, and walked right up to the man sitting in his BVDs on the
Ever so softly, he patiently began to bathe the street person. Using only a scrub
brush, a pail of water, and The Fountain of
Love, the man with such a gentle
touch, began the holiest washing
I have ever witnessed. I snatched a quick look at the saint doing the washing
and our eyes met. His eyes were full. Mine weren't. He
could see what I couldn't. I quickly broke the contact. I was
embarrassed over my own discomfort with the event. I needed time and space.
Soon after this holy
moment, Dee and I sat down for lunch. I waited until the waitress had
taken our order. I paused because I wanted to say this as clearly than anything I had ever said. I
leaned over the table towards Dee.
"For years, I have yearned for an act that even begins to touch
the power of Jesus' washing of the disciples’ feet. Today I saw
it. I saw Jesus -- here in San Pedro Sula.
I just don't know which of the two he was."
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