Thursday, March 24, 2016

Maundy Thursday and Romero's Martyrdom

I anticipated the interesting juxtaposition that comes tomorrow:  Good Friday and the Feast of the Annunciation.  I didn't realize that this year's Holy Week would bring us Maundy Thursday and the anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Romero.

I've written about the struggles in Central America that provided a backdrop to my college years, how we spent time thinking about what we would do if our compatriots were drafted and sent south to war.  I've written about Archbishop Romero and the struggle for social justice--and the film depictions of him.

Lately, I've been thinking about Romero as a bureaucrat, as a middle manager in the church.  We might say, "Wait, he was an archbishop--that's not so middle management!"  In a way, yes.  But in a way, Romero reminds me of a department chair in charge of a department of priests.  In my school structure, there's not a lot of upper management--and maybe that's why I see him as a middle manager.

I also see his story as similar to many of us--we go into our careers dreaming of ways we'll set our various industries on fire and change them.  And then we might find ourselves in various Siberias, toiling away, wondering how our bright futures came to this.

I've been thinking about the fact that Romero came into greatness late in his life; he was born in 1917, and I don't think he did his best work until the 1970's,, in his late 50's/early 60's.  Looking at the trajectory of his life from the middle years of the century, one would not have predicted that he would speak so eloquently about injustice and the need to fight against it.

In fact, many scholars believe that he was chosen to be Archbishop precisely because he was expected not to make trouble.  All that changed when one of his good friends, an activist Jesuit priest, was assassinated by one of the death squads roaming the country. Romero became increasingly political, increasingly concerned about the poor who were being oppressed by the tiny minority of rich people in the country. He called for reform. He called on the police and the soldiers to stop killing their brethren. And for his vision, he was killed as he consecrated the bread for Mass.
During Holy Week, I think of Christ's story too--far away from the power structures of the day, he changed the world.  And he changed the world by challenging the power structures--and for this, the forces of empire killed him.

I see a similar story in Archbishop Romero's life.  And I see similar stories all around me--the powers and principalities of the world do not like the threats contained in Christ's message of love and radical hospitality.  We should not underestimate the forces of darkness.

I wish I could end with a reassurance that the system will be changed if we just take action--but Holy Week takes us in a different direction.

Romero's life story shows that the system will resist change violently.  But the Passion story shows us that even the violence wrought by unjust earthly systems can be changed into a force for redemption and resurrection.  Humans may not be able to force that change--but God can.


Beth said...

Thank you for this, Kristin. I'm forwarding it to several friends.

Beth said...

Thank you for this, Kristin. I'm forwarding it to several friends.

Kristin said...

Thanks, Beth. I wish I could hear you sing this Holy Week. I miss cathedrals that have never been mine . . .