Thursday, August 07, 2008

"A History of Salvation" by Mons. Oscar Romero de las Americas

The church’s task in each country
is to make of each country’s individual history
a history of salvation.
December 11, 1977

What beautiful coffee groves,
what fine cane and cotton fields,
what farms, what lands God has given us!
Nature is so beautiful!
But we see it groan
under oppression,
under wickedness,
under injustice,
under abuse,
and the church feels its pain.
Nature looks for a liberation
that will not be mere material well-being
but God’s act of power.
God will free nature from sinful human hands,
and along with the redeemed it will sing a hymn of joy
to God the Liberator.
December 11, 1977

Mary and the church in Latin America are marked by poverty.
Vatican Council II says that Mary stands out
among the poor who await redemption from God.
Mary appears in the Bible
as the expression of poverty, of humility,
of one who needs everything from God.
When she comes to America,
her intimate, motherly converse is with an Indian,
an outcast, a poor man.
Mary’s dialog in America begins with a sign of poverty,
poverty that is hunger for God,
poverty that is joy of independence.
Poverty is freedom.
Poverty is needing others,
needing brothers and sisters,
supporting one another so as to help one another.
This is what Mary means
and what the church means in Latin America.
If at some time the church betrayed its spirit of poverty,
then it was unfaithful to the gospel,
which meant it to be distinct from the powers of the earth,
not depending on the money that makes humans happy,
but depending on the power of Christ,
on God’s power.
That is its greatness.
December 12, 1977
(December 12 is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of Latin America. In 1531, an Indian, Juan Diego, reported that Mary had appeared to him, and he showed her image left on his cloak, which is now venerated in the Guadalupe basilica in Mexico City. Archbishop Romero preached this homily in the church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in San Salvador.)

Our people sense that Mary is part of our people’s soul.
All Latin American peoples feel this.
No one has entered so deeply into our people’s heart as Mary.
She is the image, the likeness,
of a church that wants to be present with the gospel’s light
in the civilizations of the world’s peoples,
as God wants her to be,
in their social, economic, and political transformation.
December 12, 1977

Faith consists in accepting God
without asking him to account for things
according to our standard.
Faith consists in reacting before God as Mary did:
I don’t understand it, Lord,
but let it be done in me according to your word.
December 18, 1977

Who knows if the one whose hands are bloodied
with Father Grande’s murder,
or the one who shot Father Navarro,
if those who have killed, who have tortured,
who have done so much evil, are listening to me?
Listen, there in your criminal hideout,
perhaps already repentant,
you too are called to forgiveness.
December 18, 1977
(Death squads murdered Father Rutilio Grande, S.J., on March 12, 1977, and Father Alfonso Navarro on May 11, 1977.)

When we struggle for human rights,
for freedom,
for dignity,
when we feel that it is a ministry of the church
to concern itself for those who are hungry,
for those who are deprived,
we are not departing from God’s promise.
He comes to free us from sin,
and the church knows that sin’s consequences
are all such injustices and abuses.
The church knows it is saving the world
when it undertakes to speak also of such things.
December 18, 1977

It is not an advantage of great value to be well off on this earth by betraying Christ and his church.

It is an advantage that is very cheap, one that is to be left behind with this life.

It is terrible to hear from the lips of Christ: “Depart from me, wicked, accursed ones. I do not know you. I will be ashamed of whoever is ashamed of me.” (Matthew 25:41; Luke 9:26.)
December 19, 1977

Let us not measure the church by the number of its members
or by its material buildings.
The church has built many houses of worship,
many seminaries,
many buildings that have been taken from her.
They have been stolen
and turned into libraries
and barracks
and markets
and other things.
That doesn’t matter.
The material walls here will be left behind in history.
What matters is you, the people,
your hearts.
God’s grace giving you God’s truth and life.
Don’t measure yourselves by your numbers.
Measure yourselves by the sincerity of heart
with which you follow the truth and light
of our divine Redeemer.
December 19, 1977

With Christ, God has injected himself into history. With the birth of Christ, God’s reign is now inaugurated in human time.

On this night, as every year for twenty centuries, we recall that God’s reign is now in this world and that Christ has inaugurated the fullness of time. His birth attests that God is now marching with us in history, that we do not go alone.

Humans long for peace, for justice, for a reign of divine law, for something holy, for what is far from earth’s realities. We can have such a hope, not because we ourselves are able to construct the realm of happiness that God’s holy words proclaim, but because the builder of a reign of justice, of love, and of peace is already in the midst of us.
December 25, 1977

Let us not be disheartened,
even when the horizon of history grows dim and closes in,
as though human realities made impossible
the accomplishment of God’s plans.
God makes use even of human errors,
even of human sins,
so as to make rise over the darkness what Isaiah spoke of.
One day prophets will sing
not only the return from Babylon
but our full liberation.
“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.
They walk in lands of shadows,
but a light has shone forth.” (Isaiah 9:1–2.)
December 25, 1977

For the church, the many abuses
of human life, liberty, and dignity
are a heartfelt suffering.
The church, entrusted with the earth’s glory,
believes that in each person is the Creator’s image
and that everyone who tramples it offends God.
As holy defender of God’s rights and of his images,
the church must cry out.
It takes as spittle in its face,
as lashes on its back,
as the cross in its passion,
all that human beings suffer,
even though they be unbelievers.
They suffer as God’s images.
There is no dichotomy between man and God’s image.
Whoever tortures a human being,
whoever abuses a human being,
whoever outrages a human being
abuses God’s image,
and the church takes as its own
that cross, that martyrdom.
December 31, 1977

I am glad that a serious examination of living the gospel
is being made among Protestants.
There is conflict – God be blessed.
When a sore spot is touched,
there is conflict, there is pain.
And Protestantism is putting its hand on the sore spot.
It is saying that one cannot be a true Protestant,
a true follower of the gospel,
if one does not draw from the gospel
all the conclusions it contains for this earth,
that one cannot live a gospel that is too angelical,
a gospel of compliance,
a gospel that is not dynamic peace,
a gospel that is not of demanding dimensions
in regard to temporal matters also.
December 31, 1977

As the magi from the East followed their star
and found Jesus,
who filled their hearts with boundless joy,
let us too,
even in hours of uncertainty, of shadows, of darkness
like those the magi had,
not fail to follow that star,
the star of our faith.
(Readings for the feast of the Epiphany (or Manifestation) of Christ: Isaiah 60:1–6; Ephesians 3:2–3, 5–6; Matthew 2:1–12.)
January 8, 1978 (epiphany)

Peace is not the product of terror or fear.
Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.
Peace is not the silent result of violent repression.
Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all
to the good of all.
Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity.
It is right and it is duty.
In it each one has a place in this beautiful family,
which the Epiphany brightens for us with God’s light.
January 8, 1978

Defense of human rights, equality, and freedom is not only a matter of policy. It is a matter of policy, but of policy rooted in the gospel. The gospel is the great defender and proclaimer of all the great fundamental rights of the person.

The gospel roots of equality will not disappear even when political expediencies disappear. Let us suppose that tomorrow it is no longer expedient for the United States to defend human rights in El Salvador. Humanly speaking, the policy may fail.

But the gospel will not fail. It will always cry out for human freedom and human dignity, even in the worst conditions of persecution.
January 8, 1978

I ask you faithful people who listen to me with love and devotion to pardon me for saying this, but it gives me more pleasure that my enemies listen to me.

I know that the reason they listen to me is that I bear them a message of love. I don’t hate them. I don’t want revenge. I wish them no harm.

I beg them to be converted, to come to be happy with the happiness that you have. Like the son in the parable who was always with his father, you possess the joy of your faith. (Luke 15:31.)
January 15, 1978

God wants to save us in a people. He does not want to save us in isolation. And so today’s church more than ever is accentuating the idea of being a people.

The church therefore experiences conflicts, because it does not want a mass; it wants a people. A mass is a heap of persons, the drowsier the better, the more compliant the better.

The church rejects communism’s slander that it is the opium of the people. It has no intention of being the people’s opium. Those that create drowsy masses are others.

The church wants to rouse men and women to the true meaning of being a people. What is a people? A people is a community of persons where all cooperate for the common good.
January 15, 1978

A society’s or political community’s reason for being
is not the security of the state
but the human person.
Christ said, “Man is not for the sabbath;
the sabbath is for man.” (Mark 2:27.)
He puts human beings as the objective
of all laws and all institutions.
Humans are not for the state;
the state is for them.
January 15, 1978

This is the mission entrusted to the church,
a hard mission:
to uproot sins from history,
to uproot sins from the political order,
to uproot sins from the economy,
to uproot sins wherever they are.
What a hard task!
It has to meet conflicts amid so much selfishness,
so much pride,
so much vanity,
so many who have enthroned the reign of sin among us.
The church must suffer for speaking the truth,
for pointing out sin,
for uprooting sin.
No one wants to have a sore spot touched,
and therefore a society with so many sores twitches
when someone has the courage to touch it
and say: “You have to treat that.
You have to get rid of that.
Believe in Christ.
Be converted.”
January 15, 1978

The day when all of us Salvadorans escape
from that heap of less-human conditions
and as persons and nation
live in more-human conditions,
not only of merely economic development,
but of the kind that lifts us up to faith,
to adoration of only one God,
that day will know our people’s real development.
January 15, 1978

We respect the temporal power,
but we do want to create in the people’s consciousness
a feeling of being a people, not a mass.
We seek the development of individuals
and a well-being that violates no one’s rights
but consists of love and faith between persons,
between sons and daughters of the Father of all.
January 15, 1978

In general, education in our Latin American countries is directed toward the desire to have more, whereas today’s youth demand rather to be more, to realize themselves through service and love.

Let us not develop an education that creates in the mind of the student a hope of becoming rich and having the power to dominate. That does not correspond to the time we live in.

Let us form in the heart of the child and the young person the lofty ideal of loving, of preparing oneself to serve and to give oneself to others.

Anything else would be education for selfishness, and we want to escape the selfishness that is precisely the cause of the great malaise of our societies.

The church must propose an education that makes people agents of their own development, protagonists of history, not a passive, compliant mass, but human beings able to display their intelligence, their creativity, their desire for the common service of the nation. Education must recognize that the development of the individual and of peoples is the “advancement of each and all from less-human to more-human conditions.” (Pope Paul VI, “The Development of Peoples,” 20.)
January 22, 1978

When Christ appeared in those lands,
curing the sick,
raising the dead,
preaching to the poor,
bringing hope to the peoples,
something began on earth like when a stone is cast
into a quiet lake and starts ripples
that finally reach the farthest shores.
Christ appeared in Zebulun and Naphtali
with the signs of liberation:
shaking off oppressive yokes,
bringing joy to hearts,
sowing hope. (See Matthew 4:12–17.)
And this is what God is doing now in history.
January 22, 1978

A preaching that does not point out sin
is not the preaching of the gospel.
A preaching that makes sinners feel good,
so that they become entrenched in their sinful state,
betrays the gospel’s call.
A preaching that does not discomfit sinners
but lulls them in their sin
leaves Zebulun and Naphtali
in the shadow of death. (Matthew 4:15–16; Isaiah 9:1–2.)
A preaching that awakens,
a preaching that enlightens –
as when a light turned on
awakens and of course annoys a sleeper –
that is the preaching of Christ, calling:
Wake up! Be converted!
That is the church’s authentic preaching.
Naturally, such preaching must meet conflict,
must spoil what is miscalled prestige,
must disturb,
must be persecuted.
It cannot get along with the powers of darkness and sin.
January 22, 1978

“In your midst I will leave a poor and humble people,”
says today’s passage from Zephaniah. (Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12–13.)
That is what the church wants:
a humble people,
a people that follows Christ:
a remnant.
It is not great crowds that should excite us,
but the authenticity,
the quality of Christians,
their sincerity in seeking Christ.
January 29, 1978

The world does not say: blessed are the poor.
The world says: blessed are the rich. You are worth as much as you have.
But Christ says: wrong. Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, (Matthew 5:1–12.) because they do not put their trust in what is so transitory.
January 29, 1978

Blessed are the poor,
for they know that their riches are in the One
who being rich made himself poor
in order to enrich us with his poverty,
teaching us the Christian’s true wisdom.
January 29, 1978

The Beatitudes are not something we can understand fully, and that is why there are young people especially who think that the love of the Beatitudes is not going to bring about a better world and who opt for violence, for guerrilla war, for revolution.

The church will never make that its path. Let it be clear, I repeat, that the church does not choose those ways of violence and that whatever is said to that effect is slander. The church’s option is for what Christ says in the Beatitudes.

I am not surprised, though, that this is not understood. Young people especially are impatient and want a better world right away. But Christ, who preached this message twenty centuries ago, knew that he was sowing a long-term moral revolution in which we human beings come to change ourselves from worldly thinking.
January 29, 1978

There is one rule by which to judge if God is near us
or is far away –
the rule that God’s word is giving us today:
everyone concerned for the hungry, the naked, the poor,
for those who have vanished in police custody,
for the tortured,
for prisoners,
for all flesh that suffers,
has God close at hand.
(Sunday readings: Isaiah 58:7–10; 1 Corinthians 2:1–5; Matthew 5:13–16.)
February 5, 1978

The guarantee of one’s prayer
is not in saying a lot of words.
The guarantee of one’s petition is very easy to know:
how do I treat the poor?
Because that is where God is.
The degree to which you approach them,
and the love with which you approach them,
or the scorn with which you approach them –
that is how you approach your God.
What you do to them, you do to God.
The way you look at them is the way you look at God.
February 5, 1978

Dear poor people, dispossessed people, you who lack house and food, your very dignity demands your advancement.

It is a pity that you, the poor, should not respect yourselves as you ought and that you try to drown – in drink, in bad habits, in excess – a dignity that could be God’s light, God’s presence on earth.

We do not praise poverty for itself. We praise it as the sign, as the sacrament, of God in the world.

A sacrament must be respected, because it is a sign of God. The poor must respect themselves, must better themselves, must work to the extent that the scope of their economic and social powers enables them.
February 5, 1978

“I came to you weak and fearful.” (1 Corinthians 2:3.)
God knows how hard it was for me also
to come here to the capital.
How timid I have felt before you,
except for the support that you,
as church, have given me.
You have made your bishop a sign of Christianity.
February 5, 1978

“When I came to announce to you the testimony of God,
I did so not with lofty eloquence or wisdom.
I never cared to know anything among you
but Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:1–2.)
I would not want human wisdom and eloquence
to intervene in my poor speech,
because then I would be giving you the world’s vanity
and not the wisdom of the Crucified.
February 5, 1978

What is my word, what is human wisdom
but a noise that reaches the outer ear?
But from that ear to the heart lies a road
that only God can travel.
Blessed the preacher
who does not put his trust
in the noise of his own words,
even though they come wrapped in great human wisdom.
February 5, 1978

When the church decries revolutionary violence, it cannot forget that institutionalized violence also exists, and that the desperate violence of oppressed persons is not overcome with one-sided laws, with weapons, or with superior force.

Instead, as the pope says, revolutionary violence must be prevented by courageous self-sacrifice, by giving up many comforts. As long as there is not greater justice among us, there will always be outbreaks of revolution.

The church does not approve or justify bloody revolution and cries of hatred. But neither can it condemn them while it sees no attempt to remove the causes that produce that ailment in our society.

This is the church’s stand, one that makes it suffer terrible conflicts, but one that also makes it feel faithful to God’s justice and to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
February 12, 1978

We should not wonder that a church
has a lot of cross to bear.
Otherwise, it will not have a lot of resurrection.
An accommodating church,
a church that seeks prestige
without the pain of the cross,
is not the authentic church of Jesus Christ.
February 19, 1978

Let them steal our material churches;
the church’s history is full of that.
That’s not why the church is on earth.
The church is something different, says Christ.
The church seeks adorers of God in Spirit and in truth,
and that can be done
under a tree, on a mountain, by the sea. (John 4:23–24.)
Wherever there is a sincere heart that seeks God sincerely,
there is true religion.
This, my friends, scandalizes many
because many have wanted to tie the church
to these material things.
They call this prestige,
they call it faithfulness to their traditions.
But it can be a betrayal of the church’s truth.
God is Spirit
and does not need the powers and things of earth.
He seeks sincerity in the heart.
February 26, 1978

(c) 2003 The Bruderhof Foundation. Used by permission.

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