Romero was a safe appointment as archbishop in El Salvador – he was a conservative and religious man, unlikely to align himself directly with the poor in a country on the brink of civil unrest and political turbulence. But the murder of a Jesuit priest, and the army opening fire on a peaceful protest gathering soon made him take sides and become identified with the oppressed. He urged his priests to shelter anyone in terror of their lives. He moved out of his palace and lodged at a cancer hospital for the poor. He began his sermons by reading the names of the murdered and the missing. He condemned the use of violence in pursuit either of justice or self-interest. He spoke out against the institutional violence of economic oppression. For three years he was a voice for the voiceless and then was shot dead while saying mass. The Gospel of the day read: ‘If a seed of wheat falls into the ground and dies it will bear much fruit.’ This of course is a reference to the death of Jesus Christ, but Oscar Romero was following His example and obeying His words. A newspaper released a message he had already prepared for this eventuality: ‘I have often been threatened with death. But, as a Christian, I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I shall rise again in the Salvadorean people, a witness of hope in the future.’ Romero wrote about the ease with which we may denounce injustice, but the hard thing is to recognise that its root is in human hearts – in the sin of our own heart. We all bear some responsibility for the neglect of justice in the world, and the only solution is to save every human being from sin. We need to admit our shameful deeds, seek God’s pardon and live in friendship with our Lord.
I offer to You, merciful God, all the sin and shame of this world, beginning with my own. Release me from self-righteousness, give me grace to admit my sin and seek Your pardon. Make me new in Your Son, Jesus Christ, that I may live in friendship with Him and follow His example of service to all my sisters and brothers in Your world. Amen.