Oscar Romero and I share a day. His death day is my birthday. While in graduate school, I was given a long list of people and rather randomly chose Romero to research, and ever since that research project I have fascinatedly turned to him on our day. This year Romero’s joy in the face of violence, and ultimately assassination, moves me.
My peers and I often struggle with existential angst – pain in the midst of a lot of good in life. Romero chose to live in the pain of El Salvador without giving up his joy. Precisely because he was given a post because he would not rock the boat, and then he rocked; he intrigues me. Since he chose to walk with the pain of those he could have ignored, Romero motivates me, and specifically because he chose joy in the midst of the horror he increasingly became aware of and ultimately died at the hand of, he hopes me.
From Oscar Romero’s sermon, “Christ Shows His Glory in Our Happiness”
“Today, like every epiphany, is an invitation to rejoice. The tone of today’s readings is one of happiness and joy. It can almost sound sarcastic to proclaim such words when we, in El Salvador, experience so much affliction and fear and live with so many different forms of psychosis. Nevertheless, I believe that no other call is more important for our country, for the people of El Salvador, than the call of this morning’s liturgy: a call to the joy of optimism.
Let us situate ourselves in the environment of Jerusalem. After the frightening depression of years during which it appeared that God was no longer speaking with them, the people were returning from exile. As they returned to Jerusalem they found their country destroyed, in ruins, as if death had prevailed over everything. Nonetheless, in this silence, in the midst of the ruins and depression and psychosis, the prophet raises his voice: For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her victory like a burning torch. Nations shall behold your vindication and all kings your glory (2). God has been with us even in our tribulations and now, when this time of affliction has passed, the dawning of joy will break forth. This is the optimism of faith. We are not sad.
Christ reveals his glory in the joy of women and men. To the degree that people are happy, so too will people reveal the glory of Christ. As people discover the paths of peace and justice, fraternity and love, so too Christ is glorified. Christ is involved in history and his presence is reflected in history by the joy and trust of people.
In Fr. Meier’s article, he observes:
“Romero in his search for a different global order took up John Paul II’s vision of a civilisation of love. But he decidedly links this civilisation of love with justice: “A civilisation of love is not sentimentality, it is justice and truth. A civilisation of love that did not demand justice for people would not be true civilisation…..Because of this, it is only a caricature of love when we try to patch up with charity what is owed in justice, when we cover with an appearance of benevolence what we are failing in social justice. True love means demanding what is just.”