Heart's ease - an infusion was said to help mend a broken heart

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Body broken, blood poured out

This mystery of the body broken and the blood poured out today sends us to the world to be bread shared, the real presence of the love of God for others. 

From General Chapter 1994 - The Eucharistic dimension of our spirituality

I can still remember how, back in the mid-90s, when my inter-congregational novices' course watched the film of Oscar Romero's life there were two, sudden moments at which we all, collectively and very noticeably, flinched. The first was when soldiers, having stormed into a church, turned their machine guns on the tabernacle: the door flew open, the ciborium spilled its contents; hosts were sprayed everywhere, and we, shocked at this desecration, all flinched. The second was the murder of Rutilio Grande, here shown as an ambush which forced his car off the road. As he lay bleeding in the wreckage a soldier appeared, looked him fully in the eye, pointed his gun and... as the shot blasted him we all registered our shock at this other desecration. Both scenes prefigured the assassination of Romero, cold-bloodedly shot as he celebrated Eucharist, the commemoration of Christ's redemptive, self-giving love. And we shuddered sadly, as the closing credits told of the bloody civil war in El Salvador which followed Romero's death.

This mystery of the body broken and the blood poured out...

And I remember thinking that the soldiers who assassinated Romero and Grande, who tortured and terrorised, murdered and desecrated in countless ways, were ordinary men who would have been brought up in devout Catholic homes. They had been taught the holiness of the Eucharist, and the sacredness of all human life, but had somehow been brutalised into sheer brutality: they too had been desecrated, their humanity and goodness sucked out of them in ways which still prevail...

I've been recalling this film, and those particular scenes as the Church prepares to celebrate the Romero's canonisation; thinking, too, of the many ways in which Christ's body is being broken, his blood poured out, God's people and creation desecrated, in every corner of our world. How can Romero's legacy and example, and now his official sainthood continue to speak hope and inspiration to us all? And how can we, who celebrate his 'elevation' also deepen our own commitment to raising the lowly - the poor and downtrodden all around us today?

Yesterday I read an article by Marin Maier SJ, in which he began his summing up of Romero's legacy by stating Judged by human standards, Oscar Romero is a failure... And yes, he is, by the same standards which would have judged Jesus of Nazareth a failure. But just as we, over two millennia, have lived and acted in ways which ensure and proclaim that Christ's death was not in vain, so we owe it to Romero to keep his legacy alive, and continue his mission on behalf of those still mired in injustice, poverty and inequality. As Maier put it, far more eloquently than I ever could...

But in spite of that [failure], Romero still radiates hope today: hope that both at the personal and structural level, it is possible to change; that humanity is more powerful than violence; that the gift of one’s life is the greatest testimony of love. If you ask poor people in El Salvador what he meant for them, the answer comes: ‘he told the truth and defended us, and that’s why they killed him.’

‘Raising someone to the altar’ can bring the risk of making them remote and idealised – Jesus himself pointed out the ambiguities surrounding the tombs of the prophets. We can only fittingly venerate Saint Oscar Romero when we walk his way. When we speak the truth about this world, a world of victims; when we ask the question about the reasons for poverty and injustice; when we call the idols of our age by name and resist them; when we are prepared for danger and conflict; when we are borne by the conviction that self-gift is more powerful than egoism and that love is stronger than death.

The clearest indicator of the humanity of a society is how it deals with its weakest members... Therein lies the task for the Church in today’s world, the claim by which she must also allow herself to be judged... Everywhere, she has to take the part of the weakest... To venerate Romero means to walk his way: to call injustice by its true name and to promote justice. ‘Raising Romero to the altar’ has to go with raising the poor and the marginalised of this world to ‘a life worthy of a human being’. Then, in his words, ‘The glory of God is the poor, fully alive’.

May Romero's prayer and example sustain us, as we are sent into our broken world to be bread shared, the presence of God for others...

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