In some corners of the Christian church today is marked as a feast in celebration of the life of Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdamez, usually more simply known as Oscar Romero.
The onetime archbishop of the Roman Catholic church in El Salvador, Romero outraged many for speaking out on behalf of the poor, against poverty created by greed, as well as torture, and assassination as a political tool.
It was on this day in 1980, while celebrating mass, he paused and delivered a sermon on basic human rights, then returned to the altar, and while saying the words of institution, as he held up the chalice the archbishop was shot. He fell and the communion wine and his own blood mixed on the ground. There the archbishop died…
Not a bad moment for a little introspection.
I think the question, the real question for us all is how do we live in this world of suffering?
And I believe the answer is simple enough, although rather hard to do.
It has two steps.
First. We need to look into our own hearts. And this is no easy enterprise. Those who think otherwise have never actually tried. We need to witness ourselves, watch the currents of our minds and hearts.
When we do we see how we can so easily be the perpetrators, just as easily as we might be the victims. And, often, by indifference and complicity, frankly, those of us who live in relative affluence often must, in honest looking, come to count ourselves as those who benefit from the labors of those who would keep systems that oppress many but serve us in place at whatever cost…
What we can learn in this enterprise is frightening.
The war mostly rages in our own hearts.
The murderer is you, is me. Our hearts are on fire with constantly rising anger, endless longing, and an ocean of self-serving certainties.
But that’s not the end of the matter. If we keep looking we also find how fortunately, blessedly, there is more to us, as well. We are also vast as all space, connected more intimately than words can say.
Elsewhere I’ve described that more, or if you prefer, less, the metaphors all melt in the face of the great reality. We are the murderers. We’re also the victims. We’re also those who can do something about it.
And that brings us to the second step. Knowing all this, or at least on the road to knowing this, we are then called to reach out.
In small ways.
In bigger ways.
To act. To make some difference. To make the world just a little better for our having been here.
Does that seem too much to ask of a life?