Gospel reading of the day:
Many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to kill him.
So Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews, but he left for the region near the desert, to a town called Ephraim, and there he remained with his disciples. Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before Passover to purify themselves. They looked for Jesus and said to one another as they were in the temple area, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast?”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Today’s gospel reading follows immediately upon the raising of Lazarus in Bethany, a short walk from Jerusalem, and it prepares us to enter into the mysteries of Holy Week. News of what Jesus has done is traveling fast, and many believe in him as the result of the signs he works.
Today’s gospel is full of ironic statements where the actors say something at a basic level that is filled with a deeper meaning. Rather than dare to dream that something wonderful is happening here, the Sanhedrin meets to raise the complaint, “What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation.” The irony, of course, is that everything that frightened them actually did occur within just a few decades. Caiaphas, the high priest, plots Jesus’ death saying that it is better that one man should die than let the nation perish, but the evangelist is aware that Caiaphas’ banal statement has a much deeper meaning, that Jesus dies for his people and in a still deeper way, Jesus dies for all people everywhere in all time.
Jesus senses the depth of the threat that faces him, so he goes away to a remote place to remain secure until the hour is ready. The picture of the arid land fixed in today’s gospel reading is where our Lord went to await his hour. The scene now is set to enter into Holy Week.
Saint of the day: St. Stephen of Mar Saba was born in about 725. At the age of 10, Stephen came to the Palestinian monastery of Saint Sabas (Mar Saba), where for the next 14 years he received his spiritual and intellectual formation from his uncle, the Church Father Saint John of Damascus. Stephen became a monk and was ordained to the priesthood. Once, while celebrating the eastern rite of the Eucharist, as Stephen elevated the Eucharist and recited the words, “Holy things to the holy,” the monastic cell in which he was celebrating the liturgy was filled with a brilliant light that emanated from the celebrant himself. From that occasion onward, he received the mystical favor that whatever intention he prayed for during the Eucharistic liturgy was granted. He obtained permission to live as a hermit, combining this vocation of solitude with an active apostolate of praying for the needs of others. He had a special love for animals, feeding out of his hand doves, starlings, and deer. His compassion for the lowly black worms that crawled through his hermitage prompted him to gather them into a spot where they would be safe from being trampled upon. Despite his calling to prayer and quiet, Stephen displayed uncanny skills with people and was a valued spiritual guide.
His biographer and disciple wrote about Stephen: “Whatever help, spiritual or material, he was asked to give, he gave. He received and honored all with the same kindness. He possessed nothing and lacked nothing. In total poverty he possessed all things.”
Stephen died in 794.
Spiritual reading: I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. (Ezekiel 36:26)
The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy. You, a man, are making yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, You are gods”‘? If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came, and Scripture cannot be set aside, can you say that the one whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world blasphemes because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Then they tried again to arrest him; but he escaped from their power.
He went back across the Jordan to the place where John first baptized, and there he remained. Many came to him and said, “John performed no sign, but everything John said about this man was true.” And many there began to believe in him.
Reflection on the gospel reading: In today’s reading, we have a contrast between those who refuse to recognize the power of God that works in Jesus and those who understand that something unprecedented indeed is at work in the man. The ones who are privileged in their social context refuse to look beyond their narrow categories to see the signs that God gives, but the ones who enjoy less privilege, the ones who live beyond the Jordan, do not have rigid categories that attempt to put God in a box. This latter group consults its experiences and says, “Something is true here that was not true elsewhere.” It is these ones who have the freedom to believe in Jesus.
Saint of the day: Maria Restituta was born on May 1, 1894 in Husovice, Austria-Hungary (present-day Czech Republic). She grew up to become a nun and a nurse. Her birth name was Helen Kafka. She was a shoemaker’s daughter.
When she was two years old, she came with her family to Vienna, then the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s capital, and home to a Czech migrant community, among whom she grew up. She first worked as an assistant caregiver at the Lainz public hospital. At 19, she joined the “Hartmann Sisters.” It was at this time that she adopted the name Maria Restituta, naming herself after Restituta, a 4th-century Christian martyr. After the First World War, she began working as a nurse at the Mödling hospital, eventually becoming the leading surgical nurse.
Even the Mödling hospital was not spared the effects of Anschluss in 1938. Sister Restituta, however, insisted on refusing to take down crucifixes which she had hung up in a new wing that had been built onto the hospital. This little act of defiance along with two of her writings that were critical of the regime led to her doom. She was denounced by a doctor who fanatically supported the Nazis and was arrested on Ash Wednesday in 1942 by the Gestapo right after coming out of the operating theater. On October 29, 1942 she was sentenced to death by the guillotine by the Volksgerichtshof for “favoring the enemy and conspiracy to commit high treason.” She was beheaded on March 30, 1943 at 48-years-old.
Spiritual reading: Only in love can I find You, my God. In love the gates of my soul spring open, allowing me to breath a new air of freedom and forget my own petty self. In love my whole being streams forth out of the rigid confines of narrowness and anxious self-assertion, which make me a prisoner of my own poverty and emptiness. In love all the powers of my soul flow out toward You, wanting never more to return, but to lose themselves completely in You, since by Your love You are the inmost center of my heart, closer to me than I am to myself. (Karl Rahner)
Jesus said to the Jews: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” So the Jews said to him, “Now we are sure that you are possessed. Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? Or the prophets, who died? Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing; but it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ You do not know him, but I know him. And if I should say that I do not know him, I would be like you a liar. But I do know him and I keep his word. Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” So they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area.
Reflection on the gospel reading: In John’s theology, Jesus is the Word of the Father. The Prologue of John’s gospel calls Jesus “the Word,” and observes that the Word is pressed right up alongside God, and the Word itself is God. This term, “word,” is used twice in today’s passage, and there are clear ties between this passage and the Prologue. In today’s reading, which continues the exploration of Jesus’ identity, Jesus talks about the benefits to those who keep Jesus’ “word,” that is, Jesus’ instruction. Jesus says such persons will never see death. Why will this happen? Because Jesus, this passage tells us, knows the Father and keeps the Father’s word. Expressed in another way, Jesus has received instructions directly from God that Jesus, in turn, transmits to us, and this instruction, because it comes from God, leads to life: Jesus expresses what is on the Father’s mind–he is precisely the Father’s word to us.
Here, as in the Prologue, a very powerful claim is made concerning who Jesus is. Jesus uses the term “I AM” to characterize his identity. As we saw several days ago, the term, “I AM” is how the Jews understood God to describe Godself to Moses, and Jesus uses it here to explain his relationship to Abraham, who “came to be.” The Prologue similarly distinguishes the Word from “all that came to be.” In this passage, “came to be” again appears and once again distinguishes Jesus, the Word, from what is created. This is a powerful passage in John’s explanation of Jesus’ identity, and it leaves little room to understand Jesus as anything but divine.
Saint of the day: Born in 1814 near Naples, Arcangelo Palmentieri was a cabinet-maker before entering the Friars Minor in 1832, taking the name Ludovico. After his ordination five years later, he taught chemistry, physics and mathematics to younger members of his province for several years.
In 1847 he had a mystical experience which he later described as a cleansing. After that he dedicated his life to the poor and the infirm, establishing a dispensary for the poor, two schools for African children, an institute for the children of nobility, as well as an institution for orphans, the deaf and the speechless, and other institutes for the blind, elderly and for travelers. In addition to an infirmary for friars of his province, he began charitable institutes in Naples, Florence and Assisi. He once said, “Christ’s love has wounded my heart.” This love prompted him to great acts of charity.
To help continue these works of mercy, in 1859 he established the Gray Brothers, a religious community composed of men who formerly belonged to the Secular Franciscan Order. Three years later he founded the Gray Sisters of St. Elizabeth for the same purpose. Toward the beginning of his final, nine-year illness, Ludovico wrote a spiritual testament which described faith as “light in the darkness, help in sickness, blessing in tribulations, paradise in the crucifixion and life amid death.” The local work for his beatification began within five months of Ludovico’s death in 1885. Ludovico of Casoria was beatified in 1993.
Spiritual reading: The very essence of the person is the image of God, and this remains in him despite every disfigurement. (St. John of Kronstadt)
Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains. So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free. I know that you are descendants of Abraham. But you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you. I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence; then do what you have heard from the Father.”
They answered and said to him, “Our father is Abraham.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham. But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God; Abraham did not do this. You are doing the works of your father!” So they said to him, “We were not born of fornication. We have one Father, God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and am here; I did not come on my own, but he sent me.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: In today’s gospel, Jesus dares us to undertake a journey, and the invitation is the deepest meaning of our Lenten renewal. Jesus says, “If God were your father, you would love me, for I came from God.” To see Jesus more clearly, follow him more nearly, and love him more dearly is the path into the presence of the Lord of Spirits and Flesh, and since that Lord has fashioned us like garments to fit the pattern of the Lord’s own form, it is in Jesus and only with Jesus that can realize who we are.
Saint of the day: Hesychius (pronounced HESH-us) of Jerusalem lived in the fourth and fifth centuries. Not only is the name of today’s saint a bit hard to pronounce and spell, it’s also difficult to learn about such a modest and gentle man who is better known in the Russian Orthodox Church than he is in western Christianity.
The birth date of Hesychius is unclear, but we know that he was a priest and monk who wrote a history of the Church, unfortunately lost. He also wrote about many of the burning issues of his day. These included the heresy of Nestorianism, which held that there were two separate persons in Jesus—one human, one divine—and the heresy of Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ. Some of his commentaries on the books of the Bible as well, along with meditations on the prophets and homilies on the Blessed Virgin Mary, still survive. It’s believed Hesychius delivered Easter homilies in the basilica in Jerusalem thought to be the place of the crucifixion. His words on the Eucharist, written centuries ago, speak to us today: “Keep yourselves free from sin so that every day you may share in the mystic meal; by doing so our bodies become the body of Christ.” Hesychius died around the year 450.
Spiritual reading: God is at home. We are in the far country. (Meister Eckhart)
Jesus said to the Pharisees: “I am going away and you will look for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” So the Jews said, “He is not going to kill himself, is he, because he said, ‘Where I am going you cannot come’?” He said to them, “You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.” So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “What I told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you in condemnation. But the one who sent me is true, and what I heard from him I tell the world.” They did not realize that he was speaking to them of the Father.
So Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me. The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him.” Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him.
Reflection on the gospel: In today’s gospel, Jesus twice uses the words, I AM, to describe himself. The discussion of what God said to Moses when Moses asked God for God’s name is a little complicated, but what the Jews understood God to have said is, “I AM,” and in today’s gospel, Jesus uses those very same words about himself. In other words, Jesus in the gospel passage is making a very strong claim about his own identity. Jesus tells his listeners that when they lift the Son of Man up, they will know this is the truth about Jesus, that, as Jesus says later in John’s gospel, “The Father and I are One.” Being “lifted up” in today’s passage, of course, refers to Jesus’ being lifted up on the cross. Jesus is telling us that it is in his suffering that we will come to recognize his glory. Today’s gospel goes once again to the paradox of Christianity, that there is in suffering, the revelation of God’s glory. And what is true about Jesus, that God reveals Godself in suffering, is true also about us, who have been baptized into him. Our suffering is not empty: God sees it and fills it with God’s own infinite meaning.
Saint of the day: Born sometime in the seventh century after the birth and explosive expansion of Islam, Saint John Damascene spent most of his life in the monastery of St. Sabas, near Jerusalem, and all of his life under Muslim rule, indeed, protected by it. He was born in Damascus, received a classical and theological education, and followed his father in a government position under the Arabs. After a few years he resigned and went to the monastery of St. Sabas.
He is famous in three areas. First, he is known for his writings against the iconoclasts, who opposed the veneration of images. Paradoxically, it was the Eastern Christian emperor Leo who forbade the practice, and it was because John lived in Muslim territory that his enemies could not silence him. Second, he is famous for his treatise, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, a summary of the Greek Fathers (of which he became the last.) It is said that this book is to Eastern schools what the Summa of Aquinas became to the West. Thirdly, he is known as a poet, one of the two greatest of the Eastern Church, the other being Romanus the Melodist. His devotion to the Blessed Mother and his sermons on her feasts are well known. He died probably about 749.
Spiritual reading: Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith but they are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the passion of Christ. (C. S. Lewis)
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Reflection on the gospel reading: I often have reflected over the years that the Church might have done well to call this feast we celebrate today, “the Feast of the Incarnation,” and not that of the Annunciation. In a way, this feast is a greater occasion than Christmas and perhaps only second to the events of Holy Week and Easter. In fact, the feast we celebrate today makes Christmas, Holy Week, and Easter the mysteries that they are. The child would not have been born if he had not first been conceived. The infinite meaning of his suffering, death, and resurrection results from the fact that God threw God’s own life into God’s creation, that God, as the Greek in the Prologue of John so evocatively describes it, pitched his tent among us.
Faith in the Trinity and the Incarnation are two of the central tenants that define our Christian faith. It was at the Annunciation that the Incarnation began to become a reality. It was at this moment that “the Word was made flesh and lived among us.” Today should be a special day of praise and thanksgiving for all of us.
The Feast of the Annunciation: The annunciation to Mary by the angel Gabriel that she was to be the Mother of God (Luke, 1), the Word being made fiesh through the power of the Holy Spirit. The feast of the Annunciation, called also in old calendars the feast of the Incarnation, is celebrated 25 March. It probably originated about the time of the Council of Ephesus, c.431, and is first mentioned in the Sacramentary of Pope Gelasius (died 496). The Annunciation is represented in art by many masters, among them Fra Angelico, Hubert Van Eyck, Jan Van Eyck, Ghirlandajo, Holbein the Elder, Lippi, Pinturicchio, and Del Sarto.
Spiritual reading: For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God. (Irenaeus of Lyons)
Gospel reading of the day:
Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.
“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.
Reflection on today’s gospel reading: Jesus articulates in today’s gospel the great paradox of Christian life, that through death comes life, that through failure comes success, that through defeat comes victory. In speaking of the consequence of his own suffering and death, Jesus speaks of God’s power to transform our deaths, our failures, and our defeats into life, success, and victory.
The words are not empty but go to the crux of our hope: that the dead ends we encounter in our existence which have the appearance of personal ruin and failure are opportunities for something brand new and far greater than what we have lost. To all outward appearances, the life of Jesus should have been considered a failure: after a ministry to lepers and the poor of backwater Galilean towns in a remote part of the Roman Empire that ended in ignominious execution on trumped up charges, the world should never have heard anything more of Jesus of Nazareth, yet a life that ended in defeat on the cross has transformed the world and given immense hope to many nations. So it is that unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains but a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Spiritual reading: The Word became flesh to communicate to us human beings caught in the mud, the pain, the fears and the brokenness of existence, the life, the joy, the communion, the ecstatic gift of love that is the source of all love and life and unity in our universe and that is the very life of God. (Jean Vanier)
Gospel reading of the day:
Some in the crowd who heard these words of Jesus said, “This is truly the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But others said, “The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he? Does not Scripture say that the Christ will be of David’s family and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?” So a division occurred in the crowd because of him. Some of them even wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.
So the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why did you not bring him?” The guards answered, “Never before has anyone spoken like this man.”
So the Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed.” Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them, “Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?” They answered and said to him, “You are not from Galilee also, are you? Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” Then each went to his own house.
Reflection on the gospel reading: In today’s gospel, the controversy about Jesus’ identity that has dominated the readings this week continues. What Jesus does and what Jesus says make many believe that he is the messiah, but some raise the objection that Jesus is a Galilean, either ignorant or inattentive to the facts that, as Matthew and Luke make clear, Jesus was from David’s line, born in Bethlehem of Judea. Each of us labors under a burden of bias. Our biases are not entirely bad; they help us to navigate common experiences without a lot of reflection. But sometimes, we are so stuck in our stories that we are unable to accept new data that challenges the way we have conceptualized something. We, too, like the Pharisees can be so convinced that we know who Jesus is that we are unable to move beyond our stories to embrace new evidence. For this reason, we need to pray to be open to the movements of the Spirit, the evidence of the scriptures, and experiences we encounter as members of our parish communities, for the evidence of Jesus as Jesus is in all these things.
Saint of the day: Born in 1801 in Cadiz, Spain, and christened Joseph Francis, he spent much of his free time as a youth around the Capuchin friars and their church. But his desire to enter the Franciscan Order was delayed because of the difficulty he had with his studies. Finally he was admitted to the novitiate of the Capuchins in Seville as Brother Didacus. He later was ordained a priest and sent out to preach.
His gift of preaching was soon evident. He journeyed tirelessly through the territory of Andalusia of Spain, speaking in small towns and crowded cities. His words were able to touch the minds and hearts of young and old, rich and poor, students and professors. His work in the confessional completed the conversions his words began.
This unlearned man was called “the apostle of the Holy Trinity” because of his devotion to the Trinity and the ease with which he preached about this sublime mystery. One day a child gave away his secret, crying out: “Mother, mother, see the dove resting on the shoulder of Father Didacus! I could preach like that too if a dove told me all that I should say.”
Didacus spent nights in prayer and preparing for his sermons by severe penances. His reply to those who criticized him: “My sins and the sins of the people compel me to do it. Those who have been charged with the conversions of sinners must remember that the Lord has imposed on them the sins of all their clients.”
It is said that sometimes when he preached on the love of God he would be elevated above the pulpit. Crowds in village and town squares were entranced by his words and would attempt to tear off pieces of his habit as he passed by.
He died in 1801 at age 58, a holy and revered man. He was beatified in 1894.
Spiritual reading: For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God. (Irenaeus of Lyons)
This day is the 32nd anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero.
The Eucharist commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus, the meal where Jesus instituted that breaking of the bread and that sharing of the cup that became the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox, the Communion of the Protestants, and the Mass of the Catholics. And it was at Mass, 30 years ago today on March 24, 1980, that an assassin murdered Oscar Romero at precisely that moment in the liturgy where the priest offered his gifts, the bread, the wine, and on that day, unexpectedly, himself, to God.
An anxiety-ridden Oscar Romero grew from boyhood to be a man who served the Church as a quiet, studious, withdrawn, conservative priest. Of him his brother said, “My brother always turned inward, thought too much.” And one who observed the earlier period of his priesthood less charitably observed, “He was an insignificant being, a shadow that went by clinging to the walls.”
When the bishops of El Salvador recommended that this sober scholar, this apparent nebbish, this “pastor to his paperwork,” become a bishop, they had no expectation of the ferocious voice they would unleash against the crisis that engulfed El Salvador. Indeed, for years after that appointment, his fellow bishops heard nothing from their brother more threatening than the turning pages of his breviary.
In February 1977, Romero became the Archbishop of San Salvador. Shortly afterward, his friend, the first priest Romero had ordained, was murdered at the government’s hands, assassinated for his service of the poor. A crowd of 100,000 drew together in a square in shock and horror to mourn the death of Romero’s friend, the dead priest servant of the poor. To the crowd, Romero gave a vow.
Whoever touches one of my priests, is touching me. And they will have to deal with me!
A swelling wave of approval echoed in the applause that rolled through the crowd, and the magnitude of the injustice against his people fired Romero’s imagination. As one who was there observed, “Thousands of people were applauding him, and you could see him grow stronger. It was then that he crossed the threshold. He went through the door. Because, you know, there is baptism by water, and there is baptism by blood. But there is also baptism by the people.”
Oh! that lamb did start to roar.
This is the mission entrusted to the church, a hard mission: to uproot sins from history, to uproot sins from the political order, to uproot sins from the economy, to uproot sins wherever they are.
The shadow on the wall became Amos in the court of the king, a voice of radical unfettered self-forgetting concern for the lot of the least, the despised, the disdained, the rejected.
We must not seek the child Jesus in the pretty figures of our Christmas cribs. We must seek him among the undernourished children who have gone to bed at night with nothing to eat, among the poor newsboys who will sleep covered with newspapers in doorways.
That the government found his voice a taunt, a nuisance, and a scourge was not lost on Romero.
While it is clear that our Church has been the victim of persecution during the last three years, it is even more important to observe the reason for the persecution . . . The persecution comes about because of the Church’s defense of the poor, for assuming the destiny of the poor.
On March 23, 1980, Romero in a broadcast heard across the nation appealed to the men of El Salvador’s armed forces to mutiny:
Brothers, you came from our own people. You are killing your own brothers. Any human order to kill must be subordinate to the law of God, which says, “Thou shalt not kill.” No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. No one has to obey an immoral law. It is high time you obeyed your consciences rather than sinful orders. The church cannot remain silent before such an abomination . . . . In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cry rises to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you: stop the repression.
The next day, Oscar Romero was dead. A 1992 United Nations Commission that investigated his murder observed about that day 32 years ago today, “On Monday, 24 March 1980, the Archbishop of San Salvador, Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdamez, was celebrating mass in the Chapel of the Hospital de la Divina Providencia when he was killed by a professional assassin who fired a single .22 or .223 calibre bullet from a red, four door Volkswagen vehicle. The bullet hit its mark, causing the Archbishop’s death from severe bleeding.” Yet the bullet that killed Romero did not silence his voice.
I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I will be resurrected in the Salvadoran people.
His people to this day labor to recover from the horrors they endured. The sister of someone I know once served as a Catholic lay worker in El Salvador. I once spoke to this friend about Romero’s legacy. She told me that her sister had observed Romero’s continuing presence among the people.
There is a certain mass grave the people were digging up to remove the massacred to proper places of burial. The horror in that mass grave unleashed an immense pathos; as an expression of their grief, the people painted a mural on a wall above the grave. At the center of that mural stands the image of Oscar Romero, his enormous arms reaching out, bending around, enfolding in an embrace the murdered of that grave, who lay these years anonymously in that place.
Gospel reading of the day:
John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30
Jesus moved about within Galilee; he did not wish to travel in Judea, because the Jews were trying to kill him. But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near.
But when his brothers had gone up to the feast, he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret.
Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said, “Is he not the one they are trying to kill? And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him. Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ? But we know where he is from. When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.” So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said, “You know me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” So they tried to arrest him, but no one laid a hand upon him, because his hour had not yet come.
Reflection on the gospel reading: Today’s gospel goes to the question of who Jesus is. All of us who spend our time reflecting on this question recognize that the person of Jesus creates confusion for many people. In today’s gospel, for instance, the people know that their religious leaders seek to arrest and kill Jesus, yet they see that Jesus freely goes where he will and says what he wants. It is this speaking by Jesus, his telling the truth, that defines for us who Jesus is. We Christians believe that Jesus is the Word of God; Jesus would not be Jesus if he not to speak and if he did not speak the truth.
What is the truth that Jesus speaks? In today’s gospel, Jesus says, “I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” The truth makes many people who hear him uncomfortable. Jesus causes his listeners to become angry because he says he knows God and came from God, but the gospel tells us they could not arrest him. God had a plan, and Jesus’ time was not yet.
In this time of Lent, Jesus invites us to renew our attention to this question of who it is whom we serve. Jesus invites us to pray in Lent that we may enter ever more deeply into a knowledge and love of the very image of the Father in whose name we have been baptized.
Saint of the day: Toribio Alfonso de Mogrovejo was bishop and defender of the rights of the native Indians in Peru, Born in Spain in 1538, he studied law and became a lawyer and then professor at Salamanca, receiving appointment-despite being a layman-as chief judge of the court of Inquisition at Granada under King Philip II of Spain. The king subsequently appointed him in 1580 to the post of archbishop of Lima, Peru. After receiving ordination and then consecration, he arrived in Peru in 1581 and soon demonstrated a deep zeal to reform the archdiocese and a determination to do all in his power to aid the poor and defend the rights of the Indians who were then suffering severely under Spanish occupation. He founded schools, churches, hospitals, and the first seminary in the New World. To assist his pastoral work among the Indians, he also mastered several Indian dialects. He died on May 23, 1606 at Santa, Peru of natural causes. He is the patron saint of native rights.
Spiritual reading: Jesus Christ, as he is attested to us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God whom we have to hear, and whom we have to trust and obey in life and in death. (Karl Barth)