Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Body of Christ in Orwell's Friendship Park

Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."  (Romans 8:38-39)

The sandy beach and dancing Pacific coastline bordering Tijuana and San Diego is home to an area known
as “Friendship Park.”  During the '70s and '80s, Mexican and American families would frequent the park, sharing picnics with their international neighbors, the sound of children laughing and playing on chain link swings  harmonizing  local Chicano musicians.

In a twist of Orwellian irony, Friendship Park is now  flanked with two 15 foot tall steel column fences.  Strobe lights dance through the night sky creating a constant and disorienting light over the city while three cameras, one infrared, one panning, and one motion sensor activated, stand tall above the former lighthouse.  Drones circle high overhead, searching for activity and testing the latest in US military technology.  Border patrol agents guard this and the additional 2,100 miles of borderlands between the US and Mexico.  The fence extends hundreds of yards into the Pacific and then continues below the sea reinforced by cemented iron rail road ties pulled from old California railways laid half a century ago--by Mexican American laborers.  The Mexican side of the fence is peppered with graffiti reminiscent of West Berlin circa 1986: “This fence won’t save your economy;” “I was a stranger and you welcomed me;" and names of hundreds of migrants who died trying to cross into the US.  

The area between the fences in Friendship Park is locked except for 5 hours each day on Saturday and Sunday when one gate is opened, allowing US and Mexican residents to stand within inches of one another, speaking through the steel mesh.  Mamas with their niñas sit on the concrete ground for hours, speaking to papas on the other side.  Abuelitas, speaking in a rapid clip and wide gestures catch up with neitos, while the sea breeze blows through their chestnut hair and brazenly ignores the border as it slips through 1/8 inch openings in the fence.

While nothing is permitted to pass through the border, the Word of God seeps through by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Each week, priests gather on either side of the fence in Friendship Park.  Though it would take over two hours, an international border, and a visa to stand on the other side of the fence, these men of God live Romans 8 “neither life nor death…nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come can separate us from the love of God through Jesus Christ.”

With bread and cup in hand, they speak the WORD that transcends all that separates the faithful.  “On the night in which he was betrayed…Nuestro Senor Jesus el pan y dio gracias, broke it, and gave to all to eat, saying, es mi cuerpo que por vosotros, do this in remembrance of me.”  Take and eat.  Take and drink.  And they do. 

Across the border, Bread becomes Body, Wine becomes Blood, the WORD becomes flesh and dwells among all.  And for a moment, God’s children are ONE.

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