It Is Not Enough To Be Good by Avoiding Evil

In a great follow-up to my power of yesterday about the examination of conscience we did at our reconciliation service the other night, in today’s Gospel, Mark records a man coming to Jesus to ask what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus reminds him of the commandments – you shall not kill, you shall not steal, and so forth. The man assures Jesus he has done all these things, to which Jesus “looked at him, loved him and said to him, ‘You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.'” Mark further tells us that the man “went away sad, for he had many possessions.”

Five months before his assassination, Oscar Romero preached on this Gospel passage. Speaking of Jesus’ encounter with the man, he said

Here Jesus challenged the natural goodness of men and women. It is not enough to be good and it is not enough to leave evil aside. Christianity is positive and not simply a negation of things. These are many people who say: “I do not kill or steal or do harm to anyone!” This is not enough; something else is needed. The goodness of the young man was not complete. Jesus tells him what he lacks….

The young man had reason to fear following Jesus. He thought that in avoiding evil he could fulfill the commandments in some half-hearted, careless manner and that this was enough. There are many Christians today who judge others because these Christians believe they are good because they do no evil. This is not what Jesus desires. Jesus died for something more positive. Saint Paul states: For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die we are the Lord’s (Romans 14:8-9)

Romero invited his listeners to allow the Word of God to be “like a sword that penetrates the depths” of their hears and to reflect on the extent to which they are attached to the things of this world…the extent to which they fail to do more than avoid evil.

We would do well to do the same.


Oscar Romero and Prophetic Preaching

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.