Let Us Not Assassinate Our Consciences

March 24, 2019 | Fr. John Freund, C.M.

Homily for the feast of St. Oscar Romero – Let Us Not Assassinate Our Consciences

His homilies lasted over an hour.
His homilies were broadcast to the public square outside the cathedral since there was not enough room in the cathedral.
His homilies were broadcast all over El Salvador.
His homilies were based on listening closely to the people on a daily basis.
His homilies were the only record we have of so many of the “disappeared” during a right-wing military dictatorship.
His homilies were the only news people trusted.

Mural Oscar Romero UES
Douglas Radamez Barahona, Giovani Ascencio Ardón y Raul Lemus- Grupo Cinteupiltzin CENAR El Salvador [CC BY-SA 3.0]
Archbishop, now Saint, Óscar Romero was murdered on March 24, 1980.

He was actively engaged in denouncing violations of the human rights of the most vulnerable individuals in El Salvador.

He was gunned down during Mass in a hospital chapel a day after calling on the conscience of an army made up largely of peasants who were killing their own people. “No soldier is obliged to obey an order that is contrary to the will of God,” he said.

He was shot through the heart by gunmen linked to a right-wing death squad while celebrating Mass, after saying, “one must not love oneself so much as to avoid getting involved in the risks of life that history demands of us, and those who fend off danger will lose their lives.”

He was gunned down after calling on the army to repent, change their way of thinking

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

Blessed is El Salvador’s first saint.

No wonder the people of El Salvador are today celebrating his first feast day as St. Oscar Romero.

No wonder even the UN, in his honor, celebrates each March 24, the International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims.

“The day specifically recognizes the important work and values of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, of El Salvador, who was assassinated after denouncing violations of the human rights of the most vulnerable populations and defending the principles of protecting lives, promoting human dignity and opposition to all forms of violence.”

It is important to know that he was for a long time blind to what was happening in El Salvador.

His wake up call was when a close friend of his was assassinated. He then began to listen to his people and his priests who had boycotted his installation as bishop.

In today’s gospel, Jesus is asked, Are the misfortunes people experience punishment for their sins?

Jesus responds, “By no means!”

But he immediately follows up with a call for repentance from sin… the parable of the fig tree. Give the barren fig tree more time and care before you cut it down

How appropriate for this season of Lent.

Let us listen to the voice of our consciences while we have time.

We may have time, but sin may have long-range or even dire consequences on our lives, now, or in the not-too-distant future. It is one thing to stop drinking when confronted with the diagnosis of cirrhosis of the liver. But the consequences of years of drinking will still take their toll.

Let’s repent, change our way of thinking while we have time.

Let’s begin to think like God and love of brothers and sisters …. as much as we love ourselves. Let’s even ask ourselves whether and how we can do what Jesus asked us to do… Wash one another’s feet as Jesus has washed ours.

How is that for a change in our way of thinking? Lent is a time for us to listen to our consciences

So we ask ourselves:

In light of Jesus’ call to consider our lives and repent of our sins, we reflect on sin’s consequences in our lives:

  • Do we shoot, assassinate or anesthetize the voice of our conscience telling us the truth?
  • Are the ill effects of our sins staring us in the face?
  • What’s falling apart in our lives? What hurts? Where do we seem stymied in our spiritual journey?

Let’s ask for the help of St. Oscar Romero who himself was for a long time blind to what was happening in El Salvador.

Help us to face what we do not want to face in our lives.

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