“Puro Sufrimiento/Pure Suffering”
A shoot will grow up from the stump of Jesse; a branch will sprout from his roots. The Lord’s spirit will rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of planning and strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord . He will delight in fearing the Lord. He won’t judge by appearances, nor decide by hearsay. He will judge the needy with righteousness, and decide with equity for those who suffer in the land. He will strike the violent with the rod of his mouth; by the breath of his lips he will kill the wicked. Righteousness will be the belt around his hips, and faithfulness the belt around his waist. The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat; the calf and the young lion will feed together, and a little child will lead them. The cow and the bear will graze. Their young will lie down together, and a lion will eat straw like an ox. A nursing child will play over the snake’s hole; toddlers will reach right over the serpent’s den. They won’t harm or destroy anywhere on my holy mountain. The earth will surely be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, just as the water covers the sea. On that day, the root of Jesse will stand as a signal to the peoples. The nations will seek him out, and his dwelling will be glorious. — Isaiah 11:1-10
When I was 12 years old, my parents became seasonal workers to the United States. Given that the work permit they received did not allow them taking their children with them, my 10 year old sister and I were left behind in our home town in Mexico under the care of my grandmother. In the last few years, I have been reflecting about the emotional impact this separation had on my sister and me. It was a rupture that accelerated our growth, and we often found ourselves experiencing situations not according to our age, it was for sure one of the most difficult seasons in my life.Children left behind by their parents migrating to the United States is another side of the global immigration phenomenon that causes significant emotional impact. We were blessed that we were surrounded by family who care for us well. Sadly, not all children left behind are as blessed as we were, many of them experience abuse, abandonment, and neglect. I wonder if this is another reason why more and more families decide to immigrate together.
Whatever the reasons, the truth is that the process from making the decision to immigrate, to embark on the dangerous journey to the United States, and to live as an immigrant in the United States, is a traumatic journey—that affects the soul, the body, and the social location of the person. The theme of the second week of Advent is hope. And, Isaiah paints for us a very hopeful and beautiful image. Isaiah describes a place where there will be no more hurt and destruction, but more significantly, the dwelling of Jesus will be glorious—in this place the glory of God will be manifested in its full expression.
This is indeed a hopeful and beautiful image, but sadly, one of the many questions we often have is about human suffering, and specifically about why God allows suffering to happen—theodicy. Earlier this year, I had the privilege to volunteer at a Catholic Respite Center in Mc Allen, TX. One of my responsibilities was to take groups of people who had been released from detention and allowed to wait with their families in the US for a response to their asylum petition.
One specific encounter I had that really made me think a lot about theodicy, was with a mother with her two kids, who had immigrated from Nicaragua. One questions I asked was, “How long did it take you to get here?” Her response was, “a full month.” Then, her eight year old boy addressed me with a very sad look and said, “Puro sufrimiento” (pure suffering). He continued saying, “Yo tenia mucho miedo (I was very afraid). “Yo me canse mucho y tenia mucho frío en las noches (I was very tired and I was very cold at night time).
As the sad look of this kid, who is the same age of my son, keeps hunting me, I now can say that his look reflected a deep despair, which is precisely the antithesis of hope. When there is a child stating that he knows how “pure suffering” feels, there is something very wrong—and the Church cannot be silent. May this second week of Advent be an invitation for us to not only be hopeful, but may we become actual instruments of hope. There are many ways to be signs of hope through concrete actions:
Purchase gift cards so aid workers can purchase needed items. Make a note that you want to help the children and send to El Valle District, Rio Texas Conference UMC, c/o Susan Hellums, 4200 North McColl, McAllen, TX 78504.
Support the work of the Rio Texas Immigration Response.
Support legal representation for children detained at the border.
Support La Casa del Migrante en Tijuana.
PRAYER: Puro sufrimiento, is the cry of your children, God. You know the meaning of pure suffering, and especially when children are the ones experiencing pure suffering, you make yourself present where they are. Help us, so that this Advent season becomes a reminder that your are on the side of those who experience pure suffering. Help us, so that we can be on your side. Help us, so that we can be brave enough to resist the powers and systems that create pure suffering in this world, and instead become instruments of true hope. With expectants hearts we pray waiting for your son Jesus Christ. Amen.
— Ismael Ruiz-Millan