US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Penitential Rite: The Church is called to repentance

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The Church: called to repentance; called to prophesy

Prayers and reflections for the anniversary of the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero. He was assassinated March 24, 1980.

Penitential Rite: The Church is called to repentance

Leader: We live in a world marked by profound injustice. The vast majority of our sisters and brothers on this earth live in poverty and misery, their human, social and political rights ignored, their dignity daily violated. This is not a consequence of fate or chance, but the result of human behavior. It is the world we have made.

As church, we have often been too afraid, too comfortable, too intimidated, too timid to name this sin of our world. Too often we as church have been part of creating this injustice, either by commission or omission, and this has caused us to fail in our duty to be prophetic. We donít want to be made uncomfortable. We don't want to give up the privileged places we often hold in our world, for we, too, have sometimes benefited from injustice.

On this day, we call our church and ourselves as part of that church to repentance for this neglect and betrayal of our gospel faith. We let the voice of the prophet, Oscar Romero, lead us in this prayer of repentance as we ask God's forgiveness so that we may be worthy to bring our gifts to the altar.

As the rite begins, community representatives take bowls of ashes from the altar and begin to pass them through the congregation. participants are invited to place ashes on their foreheads as the rite continues. The Romero quotes can be led by several different readers standing before the community or sitting among it, as Romero's voice rising from different locations within the congregation.

Romero: The church's place is by the side of the poor, of the outraged, of the rejected.

Response: Loving God, when our church, and we who are church, fail to stand with the poor and oppressed peoples who suffer the fruits of injustice—for this we ask your mercy.

Romero: The criterion that will guide the church will be neither the approval of, nor the fear of, men and women, no matter how powerful or threatening they may be.

R: Loving Christ, when our church, and we who are church, allow ourselves to be guided by the criterion of approval or fear of those with power and wealth —for this we ask your mercy.

Romero: The church's hard mission is to uproot sins from history, from the political order, from the economy.

R: Loving God, when our church, and we who are church, fail in this hard mission, arguing that these are not spiritual matters, guided by fear of risk, discomfort, insecurity, or loss of privilege—for this we ask your mercy.

Romero: Unjust social structures are the roots of all violence and disturbances... Those who benefit from obsolete structures react selfishly to any kind of change.

R: Loving Christ, when our church, and we who are church, fail to address the structures that are at the roots of injustice and violence, when our church and we who are church react selfishly to any kind of change—for this we ask your mercy.

Romero: A preaching that does not point out sin...that makes sinners feel good, that does not discomfit them, that lulls them in their not the preaching of the gospel.

R: Loving God, when our church, and we who are church, fail to point out the sin of injustice, but instead allow ourselves to remain unchallenged, feeling good, lulled, while our brothers and sisters suffer from injustice and violence—for our failure to preach the gospel, we ask your mercy.

Romero: What starts conflicts and persecutions, what marks the genuine church, is when the word...accuses of sin those that oppose God's reign so that they may tear that sin out of their hearts, out of their societies, out of their laws—out of the structures that oppress, that imprison, that violate the rights of God and of humanity.

R: Loving Christ, when our church, and we who are church, fail to be your genuine church —for this we ask your mercy.

Romero: The church has to denounce the selfishness that is hidden in everyone's heart, the sin that dehumanizes persons, destroys families, and turns money, possessions, profit and power into the ultimate ends for which persons strive.

R: Loving God, when our church, and we who are church, fail to own our own selfishness, fail to denounce the sin that puts the seductions of the world before the love of our suffering sisters and brothers—for this sin of idolatry, we ask your mercy.

Romero: A church that suffers no persecution but enjoys the privileges and support of the things of the earth—beware!—is not the true church of Jesus Christ.

R: Loving Christ, when our church, and we who are church, fail to be the true church of Jesus Christ—for this we ask your mercy.

Leader: Let us now pray boldly about the sins of our world, and beg Godís mercy:

The following are examples. Make them your own, connecting the global reality to your local really. If time permits, invite the congregation to add others.

For the growing disparity in wealth in our world, R: God have mercy.

For the growing racism in my community, R: Christ, have mercy

For the times we blame the poor for their plight, though it is caused by injustice, R: God, have mercy.

For the lowering tax burden on the rich and on corporations while we dismantle and defend programs that benefit the poor, R: Christ have mercy,

For our failure to take responsibility for the conditions of poverty and social violence in our world and in my community, R: God, have mercy.

Leader: God of compassion, merciful God, hear our cry of repentance for the ways in which our church has added to the suffering in our world through participation in its causes, or through neglect caused by fear, complacency, despair, or the seduction of comfort, status, and power. May our prayer of repentance be a point of conversion, turning the hearts of many back to you. (May we, like Lazarus in today's gospel, be called to "Come out!," to rise from the death of sin, to be unbound and able to walk freely into the light of your life.)

Fill us with the boldness of your servant Oscar; enable us to denounce sin in our world and pronounce your reign among us, and to lend our hands and our hearts to building that reign in our world. This we ask in the name of Jesus our brother and redeemer. Amen.