It is the Cup of Salvation

During the summer of 1994, while the Guatemalan Civil War was still raging, I visited that country for the first time. After being in Guatemala City for a week, I was invited to join one of my fellow Missionaries of the Precious Blood on a two week visit to the village of Tucurú. Shortly after I arrived, I discovered that almost no one in town even spoke Spanish, and that most of the people only spoke Q’echi. one of the many Mayan languages still spoken in the rural villages of Guatemala. So, on Sunday morning when the Mass would be celebrated in Q’echi, I decided to sit among the people, with my English prayer book, and pray with the people in silence as they prayed out loud to the one and same God who would understand us all.

I took a seat in the third bench and waited for Mass to begin. The bench was just wide enough for three people to sit in comfortably. By the time that the marimbas were warming up for the opening song, there were four of us. Then she came in and sat next to me. We were shoulder to shoulder and cheek to cheek. She was wet, covered with mud and didn’t smell so great. So when she sat next me, I was wet, covered in mud and didn’t smell so great on one side.

At the sign of peace, she reached out to me, and we exchanged the typical handshake I had learned earlier in the week. We both went forward and received the body and blood of Christ at communion. When she returned to the bench, her face was radiant with joy. When Mass ended, she approached the pastor and spoke with him for a little while, and I would have forgotten all about her except for what the pastor told me at lunch that day.

“The woman who sat next to you at Mass this morning comes from one of the forty-nine villages in the parish where we celebrate Mass once or twice a year. This morning she woke up, just as the sun was beginning to rise, and she had a feeling deep down inside that if she did not receive the eucharist today, she would literally starve to death before the sun set this evening. So she walked for three hours in the pouring rain, on steep mountain trails, where she slipped and fell in the mud a few times, as she walked to the nearest village where she knew they would be celebrating the Eucharist.”

She walked three hours there, mostly downhill, knowing that the return trip would take even longer, all for what looks like a morsal of bread and few drops of wine. She would spend seven hours walking those steep mountain trails in the pouring rain in order to save her life. She knew that the cup we would share was the cup of salvation. She knew that it would not only save her, but that it would enable her to bring that same hope to her family and to those who lived in her village who would not have made that long trek in the pouring rain.

She knew, and she taught me, how precious this cup we share truly is. More than anything I read about the eucharist, her silent walking taught me that this is indeed the cup of salvation.

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