Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the Salvadoran church leader who was assassinated while presiding at Communion in 1980. He courageously spoke out on behalf of those who are oppressed.
Here is the trailer for the 1989 biopic:
I first learned about Oscar Romero in 2001 when I worked at Sky Ranch Lutheran Camp. All the camp’s cabins are named after people who have lived out lives of Christian social justice—including Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mother Theresa, Desmond Tutu, and Oscar Romero.
For a college class on Old Testament prophets, my assignment was to write a paper comparing a modern figure to people from the Bible. I wrote about Romero and how his actions as bishop in El Salvador were like the calls to social justice found in the teachings of Jesus and the work of Old Testament prophets. Like Amos, Romero called out those who might sell the poor for a pair of sandals (Amos 2:6).
Romero and Jesus spoke out for poor people in extractive economies. In first-century Palestine, then a Roman colony, the people were paying taxes to the Romans, thus making the tax collectors rich. In Romero’s El Salvador, while no longer a Spanish colony, the campesinos were working on plantations they did not own, providing income for the elite land owners. Many of the crops, including bananas, coffee, and sugar, were later sold to markets overseas, including the United States. In a 1980 speech at Louvain, Romero said, “The poor are the body of Christ today. Through them, he lives on in history.”
When I preside at Eucharist and lift up the loaf and chalice, I often think about Oscar Romero. I’ve never felt in danger of being assassinated because of my ministry, but maybe I should be. Maybe I need to start taking a more confident stance in loving my neighbor. When we eat this Body of Christ, we are standing in solidarity with all God’s people.
A prayer for today:
You have shown us your love in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We remember and thanks for all those who have striven for this peace, especially Oscar Romero. Continue to be with the people of El Salvador and all who live in the midst of oppression. Stir up in us a spirit of justice and help us courageously follow you. Amen.