Jesus is at the grave of Lazarus. Mary and Martha have red eyes and have run out of tears. Others are there because Lazarus was well know and loved by many.
Someone says as the see Jesus weeping, “Behold, how he loved him.”
Yes, Jesus weeps for his friend. He died four days ago. His sisters have been miserable. They threw our a life line to Jesus but Jesus arrives too late. They don’t understand it.
Jesus stops. This is all wrong. A young man, too young to die, is in the grave in front of him. The suffering of his friends, his closest friends is his too. The whole human experience of sadness and sorrow are his in that moment.
He said, “I am the resurrection!” moments ago. His face becomes firm. “Take away the stone!” he says hoarsely. The world is turning upside-down. They remove the stone. Lazarus! Come out here!
A dead man wrapped like a mummy hops and stumbles out. No one moves. No one breathes. “Set him free from the binding of death.” Those clothes no longer suit him. He is alive.
Jesus knows what he has done. He has signed his death warrant. The news travels through Jerusalem. Jesus shows up soon after in the capitol and teaches daily in the temple.
The Isla de las Munecas is part of Xochimilco which means “flower field.” It all started when their ancient leader, Acatonallo, invented a system of agriculture that increased the production of corn, beans, and squash. Xochimilco began to dominate the area and even had a female ruler for a while who is credited for a number of distinctive dishes that are part of area’s cuisine today.
Xochimilco survived Hernán Cortés army in 1521. Also, the Zapatistas 1912. It remained a great agricultural area, shipping its produce to Mexico City. Two thousand barges a day traveled on the waters in traditional rafts that were pushed along the shallow waters using a pole. But sadly for Xochimilco, more water was wanted in Mexico City. The water tables became lower until canals near Mexico City began to dry up making their traditional and cheap method to get goods to market nearly impossible.
In the 1920s, most of the water supply of Xochimilco was going to Mexico City and the urban sprawl of Mexico City was reaching Xochimilco during the mid 20th century. In the 1970s, the federal government began to replace the lost supply to the canals with treated water. The treated water is clear, but not drinkable due to bacteria. However, it is used to irrigate crops. More recently, illegal building is taking place. These settlements are even filling in canals to make “new land.”
But among the islands, you can find a small one with a strange history which never intended to be a tourist destination. The island is known as Isla de las Munecas (Island of the Dolls).
This small island is home to hundreds of rather terrifying dolls. The dolls are scary enough during the day, but in the dark, they are particularly disturbing.
Don Julian Santana Barrera was the caretaker of the island. One morning a young girl and her sisters went swimming in the canal but the current was too strong. The current pulled one of the sisters all the way down the canal and when Santana Barrera saw the young girl, she was drowning. He was unable to get to her before she died. He found a doll floating nearby and hung it from a tree as a sign of respect for the girl. He became haunted by the spirit of the girl. He began to hear whispers, footsteps, and anguished wails in the darkness even though his hut was miles away from civilization. Driven by fear, he spent the next fifty years hanging more and more dolls, all over the island in an attempt to appease what he believed to be the drowned girl’s spirit. Those who knew Julian said he was driven by some unseen force that completely changed him. After 50 years of collecting dolls and hanging them on the island, Julian was found dead, drowned in the same spot where the girl had drowned so many years before.
Witnesses have claimed they had heard the dolls whispering to each other, while others who were on a boat near the island said the dolls lured them to the island. Of course these witnesses are exaggerating but the truth is that the Isla de las Munecas is a very creepy place that marks the casual visitor.
The locals believe that the Isla de las Munecas is a charmed place. After Julian’s death in 2001, it has become a tourist attraction, where visitors bring more dolls. The island has become famous and has even been featured in articles and TV shows. Although the actions of Don Julian were innocent, it ended up being portrayed as a real nightmarish destination. Soulless eyes follow visitors as they visit the small island which is actually a floating garden. You go through maze-like canals, surrounded by lush greenery and singing birds, but soon your boat is slowed down by a swarm of lily pads and the canal falls ominously silent. You turn along a bend in the waterway and see a surreal vision of hundreds of dolls hanging from trees on the tiny island.
On a more happy note. there are many festivals and celebrations that occur through the year. One is the Feast of the Cross on May 3, which has been celebrated for over 400 years. The Niño Dios of Mexico is an image of the child Jesus called the Niñopa. The image is over 435 years old and was made from a local tree. “Niñopa” means “child of the place”. It can be seen as it is shown around the area by the mayordomo that pays all the expence.
Xochimilco holds major events for Day of the Dead including costume parades, exhibitions, especially of altars, in cemeteries, museums, plazas and more. the cemeteries are lit with the glow of numerous candles. “La Cihuacoatle, Leyenda de la Llorona,” takes place on the waters of the old Tlilac Lake. Spectators watch the event from trajineras that depart from the Cuemanco docks and travel the canals to reach the lake.
The church maintains a very large atrium, which was meant to hold large congregations of indigenous peoples, who were ministered to by the monks. The west gate has three arches, which represent the Spanish, indigenous and mestizo peoples of the area. The nearby church contains its original 16th century main altar and is covered in 24karat gold leaf. There is a depiction of the Virgin of Xochimilco as well.
The San Juan Bautista Tlateuhchi Church is fronted by a large juniper tree, said to have been planted by Cuauhtémoc to commemorate the alliance of the Xochimilas with the Aztecs to fight the Spanish.
The La Santisima Trinidad Chililico Church is noted for its James,_son_of_Zebedee” equestrian statue.
The “Flor más Bella del Ejido” (Most Beautiful Flower of the Ejido or Field) Beauty_pageant”> is an event dedicated to the beauty of Mexican indigenous women. “Flower-woman” representative of Mother Earth and fertility. This flower-woman is based on the goddess Xochiquetzal, the goddess of flowers and love.
The Feria de Nieve (Ices and Ice cream Fair) takes place in each April. Flavored snow was consumed in the pre Hispanic period, eaten by the rich and made from snow from the nearby mountains and transported through this area. In 2009, the event had its 124th anniversary.
Xochimilco’s economy has recently focused on flowers and ornamental plants as well as the traditional agriculture.
What if you decide to do good? If you want to, you can have Jesus as your model. What was his method? His friend, Peter, wrote this: “God empowered Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and so he went around doing good…” Jesus promises this same Holy Spirit to his followers: “…but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.”
Did that happen? Not long after Jesus said that a strange event took place. On the day called Pentacost, they were all together. Suddenly a sound like a violent wind was heard. It filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw fire above each others heads. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to speak in different languages that they had never learned.
Peter explained the phenomena as one predicted by the ancient prophet Joel. The apostles expected the Holy Spirit to fill everyone who believed the message of the gospel they spread as charged to do so by Jesus. So the same power Jesus relied on is available to all his followers.
So if we do good as empowered by the Spirit everything will go smooth. What? Not so? The message clashes with the common view of life. Jesus had mixed reviews on his actions. Those opposed to him arranged his death by crucifixion. The story did not end there.
Ignoring his detractors, Jesus revealed himself alive and well after his death to his surprised followers. After convincing them of his remarkable return to life, he told them to spread his message even if they receive similar opposition.
What if we find this same reception. Yes, we speak to the Master: they reacted badly to my good act! He says, “I know, I had the same thing happen to me.”
That is the test. If you go on doing good as well as you can, you find God at your side. Why? He is all about doing good in a bad world. If you quit, then you lose your purpose because your purpose is to do God’s kind of good in a bad world.
We get general direction from the words of Jesus. Let’s be clear about this: not the Bible in general, but specifically the words of Jesus. He is the focus of everything. And we get more specific help from the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes this help is quite clear. Sometimes it is just a friendly push in a direction. You understand more as you go along. What I am saying is this: if you are trying to do the will of God as spoken by Jesus, God will not let you work alone. He will be right there beside you. Sometimes you will feel it. Other times, not so much. But he will direct you and he will redirect you if you go wrong.
What? I could go wrong? Of course, you could go wrong. Or something goes wrong and you don’t understand it. In fact, something will go wrong. Then what? Quit? Okay, but this is not faith. Faith goes on even when you don’t understand it. There will be opposition against the good you do. You will be tempted. You will get discouraged. You will have a setback.
But your very weakness is your strong point! Be weak toward God. I don’t understand this. I don’t know why this is happening. You told me to go in this direction and it has gone wrong. Guess what? It was always going wrong for Jesus. Read the story closely. Things were always going wrong. He was criticized for doing good. A lot. But be of good cheer, Jesus kept going. He never stopped.
If he couldn’t do good in this town, he went to the next one and did good there. He fixed things that didn’t work right. Like arms. Or eyes. Or legs. He gave us the clearest words of God ever spoken by a man on earth. That is why we can trust him always. He loved people. And some people loved him. Is that you? Is that me?
Is God angry? What is God angry about? Some say that God is angry at sinners. Then others quickly say, “He hates sin not the sinner.” What does that mean? He doesn’t expect us to stop sinning, right?
Jesus said, “Go and sin no more…” to several people.
Does he really believe people can stop sinning. And who started all this sinning anyway? Let’s look at the first two people. What did they do to start this sinning?
They had one rule. One rule! Don’t eat from a particular tree. That seems easy enough, I mean, why would they? But why even have a rule anyway?
It was like an exit sign in the Garden of Eden. There was a conscious choice to be made. The eating of the fruit came with a warning. “Dying you will die.” The other tree that came with a name was the Tree of Life. Self explanatory, I guess. What attraction did the first tree have? It would give you a knowing of good and evil. We know they ate from it eventually. So they got the knowing. We still have it. So Adam said, “Hey! This is great. I feel wise. How about you, Eve?” No. He said, “I feel naked! And it is not a good feeling.” “Yeah, let’s make some coverings,” said Eve.
So God spoils the clothes-making party by booming out, “Ha! You did it! Here are some punishments to go on top of your miserable state.” Not at all. He simply asked, “Where are you?” He didn’t accuse them. He gave them a chance to explain but they used it to cast blame elsewhere. But didn’t he curse them? Read it closely. He did not curse them. He did curse the serpent. He did curse the earth in that it would not be so friendly to them now. But would he curse those he had blessed? No, he did not.
He made them clothes to help their uncomfortable condition. Good clothes, better than leaf ones. And the ‘punishments’? They were more like reminders that something was wrong now. So, what was their sin? Eating fruit? No. Choosing their own way to live without God’s good guidance. So ‘to sin’ is to make your own decisions without reference to God, and even to go against his clear direction.
Let’s look at someone Jesus told to “sin no more”. Her sin was clear. It had become a lifestyle with her. But where was she now? She was close to Jesus. Close to Jesus and away from the condemnation being heaped on her. She was near Jesus and forgiveness. She was in that circle of righteousness Jesus always had about him. Outside of it was wrongdoing and hypocrisy. That is when he says to her, “Go and sin no more.” Yes, take your new righteousness with you into the world and don’t trade it for a sinful life again.
Now, if God is so angry with us, why do we see it so rarely in Jesus? He takes time to reason with with those who purposely misunderstand him. Yes, he has no time for those who want to manipulate him and make him conform to their ideas of him. But, he simply leaves them, rejecting their plans for him.
We do see his frustration with his friends. When the ones closest to him who would not accept his words and embrace them in faith, he is abrupt at times. He got angry with Peter for the idea that the Messiah should not suffer? He knows the Messiah must suffer. But he shows great patience as he explains to Martha about her brother, Lazarus, and says, “I AM the resurrection and the life!” Right here. Right now. But when her sister, Mary , comes complaining about his late arrival, he says, “Show me where you have laid him.”
He weeps. Is this an angry person? No. He feels the sadness death brings to people. He understands those who don’t realize that death is not the end. Lazarus must return from bliss to show them he is still the same person. But listen. Now he speaks: “Lazarus, come forth!”
God sees you as you were meant to be. That you and I don’t see that concerns him greatly. Though his love compels him to act, he does compel us to believe him. His love is freely given and can only be freely received. He says, “Come, follow me.”
The Jewish people had a pretty clear idea of sin. But some were using it to separate people into groups or kinds of people : good and bad; sinners and righteous; our kind and their kind. Jesus didn’t accept the idea that people could not change for the better. His message of good news is that God will forget your past and bring you into his family. He extended this message to all people before he left.
So, where is all this God anger? If there is some anger, it is against the corrupting of his creation. People are so much more than they seem. When they insist on their own way to happiness, they gain his pity not his anger. How did he show this? He put himself into the hands of sinful men. We saw the sinful ones contrasted against the righteous one. They discredited him. They rejected him. They condemned him. But that was not enough. They demanded his humiliation and brutal death by their hated overlords. A reluctant Roman governor yielded to their threats of another riot and gave him over to their demands. He was then given Rome’s worst punishment for those who opposed their empire.
This was his demonstration for all time of what sin did to people. It made them jealous, hateful, vindictive, merciless, conniving and selfish of their power over people. It turned others against their fellow humans without any sense of pity for one unjustly accused of wrong. They were ready to carry out the punishment on any lower class, contemptable creature who meant nothing. He was just one of so many hundreds of Jews killed by the Romans. These were only in the way of the ascendancy of Rome over all others. They were to be subjugated by force. Who cared if some died undeservedly?
This was what sin had produced on earth: Evil men. And this is the treatment they gave to the only righteous man to walk the earth. The one who went around doing good with his power. And then the righteous man returns to offer an escape from sin to all people. He offers to change people from doing evil from a bad heart to doing good from a new heart. He offers a powerful change for any and all who will believe.
But will you and I embrace that change. We will begin to hate sin, too. We will become aware of the death and destruction it results in. Will we, like Jesus, delight in the good will of God? Will we trade our heart of uncaring stone for a human one? We don’t even make decisions that are in our own best interests at times!
But this hatred of sin is gets taken over by love. We can stand with God and offer the same salvation we are participating in. We love God and reject what keeps us from him. Sin will not destroy us because the very power of goodness comes to live in us. This is the only cure offered by the Doctor of human souls: Jesus. All others are charlatans and quacks who cannot cure the soul. They offer remedies that never reach the deep part where the change is needed. This change toward God will turn us again toward people with love and hope.
Yes, the anger of God will be seen one day. It will be toward those who opposed God and his redemption of men. Against the adversary of God who is not a human and those like him among the humans who kept others from knowing how wonderful God is and how he loves people. All lies will be exposed. All motives will be shown. Jesus will be seen as he is in all his glory. He will take his rightful place and continue his work of making us into the image of God.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind;
love does not envy or boast;
it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing,
but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.