“Fuse!” The noun, according to google means, anger, rage, ferocity, passion. The verb means blend, mingle, unite, merge. The noun means war, the verb means peace! Basically, the word means energy. Iter is bringing the sun’s energy down to earth. Christmas is bringing God’s energy down to earth. He came to mingle with us and the result was explosive. In the end it consumed him on Calvary, his passion.
I have just read a moving account of the life and death of Oscar Romero, by Roberto Morozzo della Rocca. Romero was the archbishop of San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, a small country on the isthmus joining North and South America. He had a traditional Catholic formation and studied for the priesthood in Rome where he admired the stand of Pope Pius XI against the Fascists and the Nazis.
Back home he immersed himself in pastoral work and became aware of the opposite views prevailing in El Salvador. Wealth and property was in the hands of a small elite who manipulated elections so that the huge population of destitute rural peasants had no voice. He became a bishop and later archbishop but saw that some of his fellow bishops went along with the government for the sake of “peace” while he and one other bishop began to speak out.
The 1970s was the age of guerrilla warfare in Viet Nam, Angola, Zimbabwe, Nicaragua and soon El Salvador. The only way to bring change was through the barrel of a gun. Romero disagreed and he began to speak out against these “popular” movements also. Liberation without salvation, he preached, brought no profound change. The only thing that was different was the people in charge.
Romero had now “offended” the government elite, his fellow bishops – who denounced him to Rome so that Rome began to ask questions – and now the grass roots movements. He met hostility on every side. But he was a deeply prayerful person and kept testing his stand in the light of Church teaching – especially after Vatican II – and the advice of the many he consulted, including ordinary people. He received great affirmation from the latter who knew he was motivated by love of them and the Lord he served.
It all came to a head in March 1980 when his calls to end the violence infuriated the elite and they had him murdered as he was celebrating the Eucharist. Civil war then broke out in earnest and lasted 12 years. The church herself battled to understand him: was he a popular agitator, a “political bishop”, a divider of the bishops’ conference? Or was he a saint and martyr, faithful to the Lord when all around him were confused and fearful. The church finally came to the second opinion in 2014 when he was beatified by Pope Francis.
I am particularly struck by the impossible position Romero was in towards the end. Like Jesus, he fearlessly spoke out and they decided to do away with him as they did with his Lord. It was another act of fusion: highly motivated by the gospel and his love of Jesus and his people Romero clashed with the evil culture that had developed in El Salvador over decades. And there was an explosion and he was consumed in it. Yet his death brought a new level of consciousness in El Salvador and in South America generally. His total offering released an explosion of energy and hope.
New Year 2017Post published in: Faith