The Church: called to repentance; called to prophesy
Prayers and reflections for the anniversary of the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero. He was assassinated on March 24, 1980.
Notes for Homilists
The Romero materials in this packet afford many rich sources of reflection on the theme of the church's call to justice and prophesy. We have suggested two sets of readings for the Romero weekend: those from the Roman Catholic lectionary for this year, and the others tied more directly to the anniversary theme.
If using the readings about resurrection, especially the gospel story of the raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-45):
Oscar Romero called his church and his people to a liberating praxis—a praxis of denouncing injustice, structural sin, the impoverishment of the majorities in the face of the lavish wealth of the few; a praxis of insertion into the world of the poor and accompanying them in their struggle for human rights, dignity, and liberation from oppression exemplified in the model of the Exodus story.
We live in a world marked by profound injustice. Poverty and human misery rises, even while we create the means for great technical, scientific and developmental achievements. The fruits of these achievements are being shared by an increasingly smaller percentage of the world's population. It is clear from the words of the prophets and the life of Jesus of Nazareth that this is not the kind of world that God wants. God means for people to be free of misery and want, to have what they need in order to reflect the image of a loving God who created and still goes on creating this world.
Use of facts and figures about conditions in our world may be helpful in creating a picture of the human conditions in which the majority of our world's peoples are forced to live - growing disparity in wealth, increasing human misery and social violence, rising racial, ethnic and religious hatred, ecological devastation. Join this to a reflection on local realities as well - the conditions of homeless people, of refugees and immigrants, victims of racism, inner city poverty caused by selfishness and neglect, landlessness and stress in rural communities, etc.
These conditions did not happen by fate, but as the result of human behavior, decisions made by human beings about how to structure this world—they reflect the results of sin. The world can be organized in a different way—and God not only calls us to be part of that process, but even demands it of us and our church. That is what Romero so eloquently conveyed in his message to the church.
We are part of this injustice. In this society—so wealthy among the nations—we too have benefited; we too are reluctant to give up what we have so that others might live. We too participate in building up many of these structures of injustice. The church has often benefited from its privileged place in society. Romero says to such a church—"Beware!" —This is not the true church of Jesus Christ.
This is the bondage of sin—we are bound in death caused by sin, buried in darkness; death has conquered. But we proclaim a God of life and resurrection. We are called out of the grave, to become unbound and to walk freely into the light of life.
Jesus says he is resurrection and life. He points the way to life. We have to look at what he did and said to understand the way to which we are called—feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, preaching good news to the poor, proclaiming the year of God's favor, the jubilee year when injustice is righted and everyone has what they need to live a dignified life.
Jesus, and Romero his prophet, also showed us what the cost can be. Remember that just after Lazarus was raised, just after we saw the power of resurrection come into our world, the chief priests and Pharisees decided to have Jesus killed.
We are called to follow - to become sources of resurrection and life. We are called to repentance as church for our failure to proclaim justice and life, for our own contributions to the sin of this world, so that we may become unbound from this sin and walk in the light of life-being prophets in our world, proclaiming the good news in word and action, becoming fearless in our confrontation with the sin within us, our church and our world—so that we may declare with Jesus' voice, and the voice of Romero who said he too would rise again in the people of El Salvador—"Come out! Be unbound! Be free of death! Rise to life!"
If the second set of readings is used:
Using similar themes as those above, we proclaim that, in our world of injustice, we shall be the bruised reed that will not break, the smoldering wick that will not go out, until justice is established on this earth. We hear our church, and we who are church, called to the victory of justice. Our challenge is to let ourselves, our church, our witness as a community, continue to be formed by our God so that we may be signs of the covenant of God with the people and a light to the nations. We are challenged to become vehicles of the liberating praxis pronounced by God through the prophets, from Isaiah to Oscar Romero—opening the eyes of the blind who do not see, or do not want to see, the sin of our world, to bring out the prisoners enslaved by this sin, to bring out from the dungeons those confined to the darkness of the world we have made.
In Luke's gospel, Jesus does not mince words about what justice means. This version of the beatitudes is clear, a compelling challenge to us who call ourselves Christians and a Christian church, to examine our values and way of life, and the impact of these on our sisters and brothers of the world. This reading is not an exception: it comes up again in the story of the rich young man, of the rich Lazarus and the poor man begging at his table, of Zaccheus and his conversion, of Jesus' feeding of the multitudes, of the temple becoming a den of thieves by being a marketplace for money changers, etc. And it is the constant theme of the prophets.
Let us build then a church and a people that is a beacon of light to our world, a pillar of justice helping to support the struggles of the poor and oppressed peoples of our world for true freedom and human dignity—a world that becomes a fitting image of the God who created it.