by Fr. Joe Nassal, C.PP.S.
“I don’t believe in death without resurrection.”
– St. Oscar Romero
It is a strange new world. Almost every story on National Public Radio is about the pandemic and the medical, economic, and social problems it creates. As I reflect by the window in week two of the “shelter in place” order in the Bay Area that is now extended throughout the state and most of the nation, the trash truck collects the garbage at the apartment complex across the street. While many are out of work or working from home because of social distancing, trash and recycling companies are probably busier than usual because more people are staying at home. Obviously, doctors, nurses, medical personnel, and first responders are the busiest as they try to make less work for another group who are busier than usual, morticians and gravediggers.
So, on the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, it is good to remember that we don’t believe in death without resurrection.
A virus of violence killed St. Oscar. Before this pandemic took hold of the world, we had an epidemic of gun violence in this country; a pandemic of oppression and injustice especially toward refugees and immigrants. Romero was killed because he became a voice against the virus of violence that claimed the lives of the poor in El Salvador.
He was denied canonization for years because there were those who felt his death was caused for political reasons rather than rooted in the gospel nonviolence of Jesus. The church finally recognized that when the rule of law in a country is unjust and the poor are being persecuted, the Sermon on the Mount and the witness of Jesus becomes political. Fidelity to gospel nonviolence leads to the cross stained with the precious blood of Christ.
Forty years ago, Archbishop Romero’s blood poured out upon the altar where he was celebrating Mass, martyred for living his faith and giving voice to the cries of the poor. “They can kill me,” he said, “but they cannot kill the voice of justice.”
Now the focus of the nation and the world is on the corona virus as it should be. But the virus of violence will continue unless those who are rooted in gospel values raise their voices against the culture of hate, indifference, and death.
As with other crises we have faced, we are at our best when the news of the world is the worst. The hashtag now is “alone together”—though we are sheltering in place and staying at home, there is a sense of solidarity that we are all in this together. May it also be so in attacking the virus of violence.
As we meet in prayer across the miles, St. Oscar Romero, pray for us.