Homily by Fr. Jon Sobrino, SJ, given on March 22, 2013 in the Chapel at the UCA on the 33rd anniversary of the martyrdom of Monseñor Romero. This homily is available in Spanish on Adital. English translation by Rebel Girl.
These words of the prophet Hosea tell who Yahweh, God, was for the poor of Israel, better than any creed or dogma. It was the true confession of God. In this Eucharist, we apply them to our dear brother Oscar Romero.
Our country is a country of poor people. Men and women who don't have a lot to give their children to eat, who don't have anywhere to live when the rain from the storms destroys their homes, who go door to door without finding work, who have to risk their peace, families, and life in other countries. These men and women find mercy, consolation and hope in Monseñor.
Our country is a country of young people, disappeared, kidnapped, assassinated day after day, and who don't find work. It has been a country where women had to leave in a hurry with their newborns in their arms, and suffered when their children left home to go to the organization or the mountains. In Monseñor they found the strength to live.
And many thousands more in El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Colombia, have found in Monseñor a light to walk by, generosity to take risks, tears to cry, laughter to laugh.
He was the voice of the voiceless, ex officio defender of the oppressed, consolation for those who cry. Today we call him "our pastor, prophet, and martyr". And we affectionately speak of him as we only speak of God and we say to him: "Monseñor, in you the orphan finds mercy." In Monseñor many Salvadorans have found the mysterious God who gives strength to live.
And in the Salvadorans, Monseñor found his people. We will say it in his words:
Looking at the suffering of His people in Egypt, Yahweh said, "I will always be with you." Seeing the suffering of the Salvadorans, Monseñor said, "I will not abandon my people." And they weren't empty words. He used to say, "I will run all the risks with you." And to the president of the country who offered him protection, he solemnly answered, "I want to tell you that, before my personal safety, I would like security and tranquility for 108 families and disappeared people. Personal well-being, safety for my life don't matter to me while I see my people in an economic system that tends more and more to open up these social differences."
Monseñor spoke of his pain in his homilies. "Brothers and sisters, my soul hurts a lot knowing how our people are being tortured." And he prepared the homilies like this. "I ask the Lord during the whole week, as I'm gathering the cry of the people and the pain of so much crime, the ignominiousness of so much violence, to give me the right words to console, to denounce, to call to repentance."
He created, he squeezed the language so his pain would be brought out. "This week my heart was horrified when I saw the wife with her nine little children who came to inform me. According to her, they found him dead and with signs of torture. Here is that wife and those helpless children."
He railed against the criminals, and beyond legal and restorative justice, he urged them to take charge of the lives of those nine children. "I think the one who commits a crime of this sort is bound to restitution. It's necessary that the many households that are now helpless like this one, get help. The criminal who makes a household destitute is obliged in conscience to help support that household."
And the good news of that people. In that suffering people, Monseñor Romero found light, affection, and love. "I feel that the people is my prophet." "The bishop always has a lot to learn from his people." "Between you and me, we are creating this homily." "With this people, it isn't hard to be a good shepherd." "I glory in being among this people."
Father Ellacuría was right when he said that "in Monseñor Romero God visited El Salvador."
Let's say it briefly now in the language the bishops used in Puebla in 1979. Puebla is known for the option for the poor. But it talked especially about the God of the poor and God's poor.
God is the first to have made the option for the poor. The Church hasn't invented anything new -- and God fulfills that option better than the Church. And in that option of God there are two basic things that we will hopefully always keep in mind, and hopefully reproduce them ourselves, even if on a smaller scale.
The first is gratuity. "By the mere fact of being poor, independent of their personal moral condition, God defends them and loves them." (1142) God's love for the poor is absolute and unconditional. God does not react to the goodness of the poor or their merits. God reacts to their poverty. That is what moves His heart.
The second is coming out in defense of the poor, and I want to stress this point. God not only loves and helps the poor, but first of all he defends them -- which is usually not taken into account. And it's important to see the profound logic in this action of God. What makes the poor poor -- very basically in our world -- is that they have enemies, adversaries. To opt for the poor is then to confront those who make them poor, and it is, therefore, to enter into conflict with their oppressors. Opting for the poor is not only -- but, yes, mainly -- to fight against the victimizers so that they stop producing victims.
There is no option for the poor without the choice to defend them. And as such, without a choice to get into the historical conflict. That is usually not taken into account very much. Not even theoretically. Nor at Aparecida. But let's say it again: There is no option for the poor without taking risks.
This year Monseñor Romero's anniversary coincides with the election of a new pope, Francis. To conclude, I want to say two things briefly:
The first is my wish that in him the poor would always find mercy. That the pope would help us be compassionate towards the poor. And that we would help the pope be merciful towards them.
The second is to present him some wishes. I'll mention four that seem important to me and I hope you agree with them:
1. That he proclaim that the Church is the Church of the poor and that he listen joyfully to the applause of John XXIII who rests in peace in a tomb near his papal apartment.
2. That once and for all he would raise women up and valiantly solve the problem of women in the Church. And that with the women in it, the Church would be a better midwife of humanity.
3. That he would not abandon the modest cross he wears on his chest. And that he would begin to take steps to stop being a head of state. And thus that he would make the Church a people that is journeying, through trial and error, towards God.
4. That he would canonize without the need to repeat formulas and without being held captive by norms, all the martyrs for justice in following Jesus. And if he's looking for a name so that all of them will have a name, from here we are offering him very humbly the name of Monseñor Romero and the name of the martyrs of El Mozote. And that he would add many other names of men and women -- and crucified peoples -- who have given their lives out of love like the crucified Christ and like the suffering servant of Yahweh. In all of them, God has visited this world.
May Monseñor Romero help Pope Francis. And may he help all of us be more like Jesus of Nazareth.