Canonization of Archbishop Oscar Romero
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 9, 2018
On Oct. 14, 2018, Pope Francis will canonize six new Saints in our Church, including Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Oscar Romero, the former Bishop of the Archdiocese of San Salvador in the country of El Salvador. When Archbishop Romero was installed, the government of El Salvador was in transition becoming more and more a military dictatorship. Romero was at the time a very conservative bishop, and the government was thrilled to see him be named archbishop. Romero at first socialized with the government leaders. But as Romero saw the increasing atrocities the government was committing, he became more and more disillusioned. A rift began to develop between the government and Romero.
Finally, a very close personal priest friend was martyred. Romero could take it no longer and began to speak out against the government as well as against poverty, social injustice, assassinations, and torture.
One day, Romero was asked to come to the home of a wealthy and powerful family to baptize a newborn baby. With some hesitancy, he declined the offer, explaining that now all Baptisms are celebrated in the church setting. When the mother asks for an exception, he declines. In disbelief, the mother sneers, “You don’t expect me to have my baby baptized with a bunch of Indians, do you?” Romero replies, “Yes”.
In 1980 Romero was assassinated while offering Mass in the chapel of the Hospital of Divine Providence, where he was in residence. (By the way. on my visit to San Salvador several years ago I was honored to say Mass at the very altar where the Archbishop was assassinated.) The life of the Archbishop is all recounted in a movie entitled “Romero”.
St. James would have understood perfectly why this mother made such a request and why Romero refused to baptize this child in a rich, elite family home as a favor to one of his country’s most powerful families. The very Sacrament which makes a person a member of the Church could not be allowed to reflect social and economic prejudice about who is more “important” in the Church. In church, we are all the same, all God’s children. In church there is no status in God’s eyes.
God does not discriminate on the basis of wealth or education or race or gender. In the Gospel today Jesus healed the deaf man with a speech impediment without regard to his economic status. Jesus was a friend to Lazarus, Martha and Mary – all rich people. Jesus chose relatively unlearned men as his apostles but also welcomed the learned Nicodemus who came at night to seek instruction. Jesus refused to condemn the woman taken in adultery. Jesus treated the Samaritan woman at the well with deep respect.
God looks into the heart of each person hoping to find a continual conversion. That is what Jesus found in the heart of the sinful woman and Zacchaeus, yet failed to find in many people with a reputation for being “very religious.”
Archbishop Romero began as a smiling, cautious priest whom rich and powerful Catholics in El Salvador found harmless. Through prayer and by opening his eyes to the suffering of most people in his country, he became a smiling, truthful, and powerful witness to the Gospel. For this he was murdered.
We are all called by God to show others the same respect that God shows us. We are called to respect people we meet on the street, in school, at work, and waiting in line at the store.
In conclusion, the Eucharist we celebrate here does not reinforce divisions by social class but rather challenges us to be as open to God’s revelation as Zacchaeus, the sinful woman, and Archbishop Romero were. In a very real sense, the Eucharist calls us to give our lives to God and one another even as the Archbishop did. Amen
Fr. Terry Hazel
Then the eyes of the blind shall see, and the ears of the deaf be opened.
My brothers and sisters, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.
He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.