Remembering Archbishop Óscar Romero

There are some people who can only be described by the word “saint.”

Archbishop ├ôscar Romero – assassinated 30 years ago today – is one of them, despite the fact that the Roman Catholic Church (under Pope Benedict XVI) is stalling his ascension to full sainthood.

“When the church hears the cry of the oppressed it cannot but denounce the social structures that give rise to and perpetuate the misery from which the cry arises.”

Romero was shot by a squad of men who had trained in the United States and were carrying rifles manufactured in the United States, while raising the Eucharistic cup to bless it during the Mass. His blood spilled over the altar as he fell – mixing the blood sacrificed by Christ for our liberation with his own, spilled for his people’s liberation.

He provides an example to us all – of how the radical love of Christ demands that we stand for the poor, for the oppressed, for the hungry and thirsty, of how a person animated by Christ’s sacrifice could make himself a “living sacrifice” for those Christ cared about.

He taught us – as the Liberation theologians did – that the notion that Jesus Christ doesn’t take sides in politics is a falsehood propagated by the greedy and powerful. Romero taught us that Jesus Christ does take sides.

Jesus Christ is on the side of the poor – the single mother working two jobs just to keep food on her kids’ table, the father desperately searching for work, the little girl who goes to school with nothing in her belly in this, the richest nation on earth.

“Do you want to know if your Christianity is genuine? Here is the touchstone: Whom do you get along with? Who are those who criticize you? who are those who do not accept you? Who are those who flatter you?”

Jesus Christ is on the side of the homeless veteran, who was “thanked” for his service to his country by being denied treatment for the PTSD his brave service gave him.

Jesus Christ is on the side of the cancer-stricken child who needs health care but whose parents can’t afford it.

Jesus Christ is on the side of the gay teenager who’s bullied and beaten up at school for nothing more than being who he is.

Jesus Christ is on the side of the undocumented immigrant woman who works 14-hour days cleaning houses or washing clothes or caring for someone else’s children, just so that she can give her own children a better life than the one they faced in the country of their birth.

Archbishop Romero taught us that sometimes standing with Jesus requires that we stand against the principalities and powers, nonviolently resisting them and prophetically calling them to repentance and justice – and being willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of Jesus Christ and those with whom Christ stands.

I pray that God give us the discernment, wisdom, peace, faith, and strength to stand with Jesus Christ and Archbishop Romero on this, the thirtieth anniversary of his assassination.

Crossposted at Matthew 25 Network.