Thursday, March 24, 2022

Romero: "Stop the Repression!"

Today we commemorate Saint Oscar Romero, Archbishop of the capital city of El Salvador in the years leading up to that Central American nation's bloody civil war. Romero was a prophetic voice for evangelical justice and equity in a country where those in power crushed relentlessly the efforts of desperately poor people to affirm their human dignity, and persecuted Catholic priests and faithful who accompanied the poor and helped them to discern Christ's love for them and His grace leading them to cry out, together, in the face of monstrous oppression. Romero and the Church were also emphatic in preaching that people must not place their hope in a merely "horizontal," worldly, God-denying revolution inspired by Marxist-Leninist ideology and fueled by vindictiveness, which would only perpetuate the cycle of violence and engender more oppression.

Saint Oscar Romero's teaching and his courageous actions as bishop were true to the gospel of an incarnate, crucified, resurrected, eucharistic Jesus who is Lord of history. Jesus calls us to eternal life, to a transcendent vocation of unending communion with God's ineffable love. This call is not, however, a pretext to escape from created reality, or to ignore the concrete circumstances we face here and now. On the contrary, He who created and who sustains all things upholds all that is true and good in this world, in this moment of history. And in Christ (and always faithful to Him) we find the promise of the fulfillment of all our efforts to build up a society that is more just, more equitable, more united in truth and love, more adequate to the dignity of every human person who is created in the image of God.

Today is the 42nd anniversary of Romero’s martyrdom. He was shot by a “Death Squad” gunman during the offertory of the Mass in the chapel of the Divina Providencia hospital, the chapel where Romero prayed daily to Jesus in the Eucharist and the hospital wherein a simple roomhe resided as Archbishop, so he could be close to and minister daily to the sick and the dying.

He was prepared for death and had already offered his life for all the poor and suffering people of El Salvador. He knew the risks he was taking for the truth of God, for the Church, and for the dignity of the human person.

He knew he was placing himself in great danger when, in his nationally broadcast homily the previous Sunday, he admonisheddirectly and personallythe men of the Guardia Nacional, the police, and the army with this final appeal:
“Any human order to kill must be subordinate to the law of God which says, 'Thou shalt not kill.' No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. No one has to obey an immoral law. It is high time you recovered your consciences and obeyed your consciences rather than a sinful order. The Church, the defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of human dignity, of the person, cannot remain silent before such an abomination. We want the government to face the fact that reforms are valueless if they are to be carried out at the cost of so much blood. In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression.”
Oscar Romero knew that "the Church" must always be "the defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of human dignity, of the person" and that these rights and realities are inseparable because God became man in order to save every human being and to transfigure human existence according to the measure of God's love. The Church must be for the dignity of every human person in this life and in eternity. Jesus has transformed the meaning of "justice" in this world because He has identified every human person with Himself, especially the least, the poor, the forgotten, the oppressed, and all those who suffer.