I came across a couple of lengthy quotes by Father Oscar Romero, a priest from El Salvador who became archbishop of San Salvador in 1977 and was assassinated while conducting Mass in 1980. The quotes are directly from the book Moral Leadership for a Divided Age by David P. Gushee and Colin Holtz. The quotes epitomize the mature and transformed leadership that Father Romero exhibited in his later life. He, like many of us, was changed by a life transforming event that opened his eyes to what was around him- what had always been around him. Poverty. Oppression. Violence. Injustice.
According to Gushee and Holtz, “Oscar Romero stands at the forefront of a theology in which Christians are called to participate in a kingdom of God that is beyond our control or comprehension….It refuses to idolize wealth or power, or to sacrifice human beings in the name of national security or social order. Yet it does not shy away from the brutality of the human heart.” (1) The following quote is from Father Romero:
“How easy it is to denounce structural injustice, institutionalized violence, social sin! And it is true, this sin is everywhere, but where are the roots of this social sin? In the heart of every human being. Present-day society is a sort of anonymous world in which no one is willing to admit guilt, and everyone is responsible. We are all sinners, and we have all contributed to this massive crime and violence in our country. Salvation begins with the human person, with human dignity, with saving every person from sin.” (1)
The authors continue by reminding the reader that Father Romero not only ministered to the poor in his later ministry, but also attempted to spread God’s truth of salvation to those who were responsible for oppressing the poor (1). The following quote of Father Romero’s demonstrates this:
“It is very easy to be servants of the Word without disturbing the world: a very spiritualized word, a word without any commitment to history, a word that can sound in any part of the world because it belongs to no part of the world. A word like that creates no problems, starts no problems. What starts conflicts and persecutions, what marks the genuine church, is the Word that, burning like the prophets, proclaims and accuses…this is the hard service of the word. But God’s Spirit goes with the prophet, with the preacher, for he is Christ, who keeps on proclaiming his reign to the people of all times (1).”
Oscar Romero of El Salvador was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, the same year Mother Teresa of India was awarded the same prize and one month after Karol Wojtyla of Poland became Pope Paul VI. Romero was assassinated in March 1980, the same year Nelson Mandela of South Africa sat in prison serving a life sentence for treason.
The human timeline of justice, peace, and moral leadership is intersected by greatness and sorrow. This mortal timeline moves forward producing new moral leaders, new sorrows, and a mix of peace and violence. It is, afterall, a human timeline: a flash that is over as quickly as it began. We hope for more.
As believers, we can trust that God’s timeline will proceed into eternity with His perfect justice and everlasting peace. We can be assured that our hope is in our righteous and perfect priest. Our hope is in our eternal king, Jesus.
(1) Gushee, David P. and Holtz, Colin. 2018. Moral Leadership For A Divided Age, 225. Brazos Press. Grand Rapids, MI.