This weekend I watched Romero, the 1989 film starring Raul Julia that gives a picture of the life of Oscar Romero from the time he was named Archbishop of El Salvador to his assassination on March 24, 1980. It is not an easy film to watch; it is difficult not to feel a sense of hopelessness at the situation of the poor of that country fighting against a corrupt power structure that holds all the cards, so to speak.
Although Romero had to grow into his role as a voice for the voiceless, he became a strong voice against the violence and injustice that was being perpetrated on the people of El Salvador. His message continues to be one that we need to hear, for the world needs the prophetic voice of love and Christ no less today than it did thirty years ago.
In one of his sermons, Romero warned,
If you live out a Christianity that is good but that is not sufficient for our times, that doesn’t denounce injustice, that doesn’t proclaim the kingdom of God courageously, that doesn’t reject the sins humankind commits, that consents to the sins of certain classes so as to be accepted by those classes, then you are not doing your duty, you are sinning, you are betraying your mission. The church was put here to convert humankind, not to tell people that everything that they do is all right; and, because of that, naturally, it irritates people. Everything that corrects us irritates us.
As Romero recognized, “it is easier to preach lies, to conform to the situation so as not to lost your advantages, so that you always have friends that flatter you, so that you have power.” Nonetheless we are called to speak the truth, even when doing so means personal loss. That takes enormous courage and enormous faith. Romero is a powerful model of that courage and faith.