Our Guest Preacher is Oscar Romero

Icon by Fr. Robert Lentz
Icon by Fr. Robert Lentz

Today is Palm / Passion Sunday.  From the gospels, we heard about the final suffering and death of Jesus.  Today also happens to be the 33rd anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador.

I brought this icon to church and set it upright on the Communion Table as I preached.

Instead of my own sermon, I preached Archbishop Romero’s final homily: the one he was preaching when he was gunned down in a hospital chapel on March 24, 1980… one week to the day before I was born.

I have tears in my eyes to think that I was able to bring his words to life again this morning.  One of the little old ladies at my church commented on her way out that what he said is even more relevant today than when he first preached it.

It is as the good Archbishop himself said: “If they kill me, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people.”  Not only Salvadoran…

By some amazing coincidence, the gospel text for Romero’s last homily was John 12:23-26:

Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.

Click here to read the full text of Oscar Romero’s last homily (in English)

The Violence of Love

Icon by Robert Lentz

32 years ago today, Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated while saying mass in a hospital chapel in El Salvador.  He spoke out against the injustices and abuses of the CIA-backed dictatorship in his country.  He called for free elections and exhorted soldiers to lay down arms.  He was accused of being a Communist in liturgical vestments.  Today, he rests with the ranks of fellow clergy, like Martin Luther King and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who made a down payment on human freedom with their lives.

The following is from one of his sermons:

We have never preached violence, except the violence of love, which left Christ nailed to a cross, the violence that we must each do to ourselves, to overcome our selfishness and such cruel inequalities among us. The violence we preach is not the violence of the sword, the violence of hatred. It is the violence of love, of brotherhood, the violence that wills to beat weapons into sickles for work.

November 27, 1977

The Voice of the Voiceless

Icon by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM

Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez

(August 15, 1917 – March 24, 1980)

As an archbishop who witnessed ongoing violations of human rights, Romero initiated and gave his status to a group which spoke out on behalf of the poor and the victims of the Salvadoran civil war. In many ways Romero was closely associated with Liberation Theology and openly condemned both Marxism and Capitalism. In 1980, as he finished giving his homily during Mass, Romero was assassinated by a group headed by former major Roberto D’Aubuisson. This provoked an international outcry for reform in El Salvador. After his assassination, Romero was succeeded by Monsignor Arturo Rivera. In 1997, a cause for beatification and canonization into sainthood was opened for Romero, and Pope John Paul II bestowed upon him the title of Servant of God. The process continues. He is considered by some the unofficial patron saint of the Americas and El Salvador and is often referred to as “San Romero” by Catholics in El Salvador. Outside of Catholicism, Romero is honored by other religious denominations of Christendom, including the Church of England through the Calendar in Common Worship. He is one of the ten 20th century martyrs who are depicted in statues above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey in London.

Reprinted from Wikipedia

Let us pray.

Almighty God, you called your servant Oscar Romero to be a voice for the voiceless poor, and to give his life as seed of freedom and a sign of hope: Grant that, inspired by his sacrifice and the example of the martyrs of El Salvador, we may without fear or favor witness to your Word who abides, your Word who is Life, even Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be praise and glory now and for ever.  Amen.

Reprinted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (2006)