Archbishop Oscar Romero

17 May

As inspired by my friend Steven Schallert, I have continued my investigation of the bygone heroes of the church that have fought for the love of God to be visible on this earth, who have taken the Bible literally, and refused to write off its teachings as radical abstract ideals. I started last week with Mother Teresa and am now reading about Archbishop Oscar Romero.

As the Archbishop of San Salvador during El Salvador’s brutal civil war, Romero became known as the “bishop of the poor” for his work defending the Salvadoran people. Though Romero begged for international intervention, he was alone in his fight to live out the Christianity that he preached. Abandoned even by the Salvadoran bishops at the time for accusations of being “politicized and seeking popularity,” Romero never backed down.

Horrified by the atrocities of the war (over 75,000 people lost their lives, 1 million fled the country, and 1 million were made homeless), Romero reminded the perpetrators of their common roots with the ones they were slaughtering and invited the army to mutiny. He shouted in a country-wide broadcast, “Brothers, you are from the same people; you kill your fellow peasant… No soldier is obliged to obey an order that is contrary to the will of God.”

He asked the soldiers to lay down their weapons and to pick up 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.”

Romero was martyred for loving violently on March 24, 1980, but though hate killed his body, it couldn’t kill his message. The people effected by the violent love Romero had spread, kept his movement moving long after his death, and his loving fingerprints can still be seen in El Salvador today.

The following is a poem written by Archbishop Oscar Romero reminding us that though we may personally never see the end of our struggle for love, the struggle is worth fighting for.

It helps, now and then, to step back
and take the long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that
will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects
beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way,
an opportunity for God’s grace
to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between
the Master Builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future
not our own.

Let this encourage you. Let this release you of any pressure to produce immediate results in your ministry. Let this affirm you that your work has eternal benefits, and let it remind you that one day your eyes will see the glory of His Kingdom come.

Keep loving violently.

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