Through the state-wide broadcasting of his weekly sermons Romero denounced injustice as well as his fellow bishops and earned the hatred of the rich
and powerful of El Salvado. On March 24, 1980 Romero was assassinated while celebrating Mass in a small chapel in a cancer hospital where he lived.
His transformation from conservative priest to one who spoke the truth on behalf of the people is often cited as an example of the transformational power of the gospel. In a reflection titled “The mystery of the Romero Prayer” Bishop Ken Untener captures the heart of Romero’s motivation.
It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water the seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realising this. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.”
Three decades after his death, Oscar Romero continues to be a source of hope for the Salvadoran people. In 2010 the President of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, issued an official apology for Oscar Romero’s murder on behalf of the state, calling him a “victim of illegal violence”.
In Oscar Romero’s courage, humility and willingness to speak out we are reminded us of Jesus. We are encouraged to look beyond ourselves to see God’s bigger purposes and, in the midst of our own trials, challenged to continue to trust in God’s providence and our place in God’s plan.
Stephen L Baxter