Putting One’s Life on the Line

Today we remember the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador.

On November 16, 1989, a group of soldiers entered the campus of the University of Central America in San Salvador shortly after midnight.  While there they assassinated the president of the university, Ignacio Ellacueria, S.J., five other Jesuit priests, as well as the Jesuit housekeepers.  The priests were assassinated because they spoke out against the government’s wrongdoing and advocated for the poor.  (Sadly, the two housekeepers slept on the campus that night because they thought it was safer there than in the neighborhood in which they lived.)

Ellacueria was particularly hated by the government and the military “for naming and denouncing the ‘idols’ of wealth and national security that underlay a brutal war against the poor.”

Nor were the Jesuit martyrs we remember today the only ones who lost their lives during this period in El Salvador’s history of government repression.  The decade that ended in their martyrdom began with the assassination of Oscar Romero.  And it is clear that the Jesuit martyrs shared Romero’s notion of what it had to mean to be a Christian in a fallen world. Romero preached

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.

Today let us remember all of those who have been willing to speak truth to power, who have had the courage to put everything on the line for the sake of God’s kingdom.

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