Commentary on the Fourth Work of Justice and Peace

from the homilies of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador

+ Protect the poor and powerless---- listen, learn, educate,
organize, empower participation, and respect life from the moment
of conception to the time of natural death.

Nothing is so important to the church as human life, as the
human person, above all, the person of the poor and the
oppressed. Besides being human beings, they are also divine
beings, since Jesus said that whatever is done to them he takes
as done to him. That bloodshed, those deaths, are beyond all
politics. They touch the very heart of God. March 16, 1980

Another thing the church does in El Salvador is its commitment
to defend the poor. The poor masses of our land find in the
church the voice of Israel's prophets. There are among us those
who sell the just for money and the poor for a pair of sandals,
as the prophets said. Thee are those who pile up spoils and
plunder in their palaces, who crush the poor, who bring on a
reign of violence while reclining on beds of ivory, who join
house to house and field to field so as to take up all there is
and remain alone in the land. These texts of the prophets are
not distant voices that we read with reverence in our liturgy.
They are daily realities, whose cruelty and vehemence we live
each day. And therefore, the church suffers the fate of the
poor, which is persecution. February 17, 1980

Even when all despaired at the hour when Christ was dying on the
cross, Mary, serene, awaited the hour of the resurrection. Mary
is the symbol of the people who suffer oppression and injustice.
Theirs is the calm suffering that awaits the resurrection. It is
Christian suffering, the suffering of the church, which does not
accept the present injustices but awaits without rancor the
moment when the Risen One will return to give us the redemption
we await.

To be a Christian now means to have the courage to preach the
true teaching of Christ and not be afraid of it, not be silent
out of fear and preach something easy that won't cause problems.
To be a Christian in this hour means to have the courage that the
Holy Spirit gives in the sacrament of confirmation, to be valiant
soldiers of Christ the King, to make his teaching prevail, to
reach hearts and proclaim to them the courage that one must have
to defend God's law. December 3, 1977

This is why the church has great conflicts: it accuses of sin.
It says to the rich: do not sin by misusing your money. It says
to the powerful: Do not misuse your political influence. Do not
misuse your weaponry. Do not misuse your power. Don't you see
that is a sin? It says to sinful torturers: Do not torture. You
are sinning. You are doing wrong. You are establishing the reign
of hell on earth. December 8, 1977

It is very easy to be servants of the word without disturbing
the world: a very spiritualized word, a word without any
commitment to history, a word that can sound in any part of the
world because it belongs to no part of the world. A word like
that creates no problems, starts no conflicts.

What starts conflicts and persecutions, what marks the genuine
church, is the word that, burning like the word of the prophets,
proclaims and accuses: proclaims to the people God's wonders to
be believed and venerated, and accuses of sin those who oppose
God's reign, so that they may tear that sin out of their hearts,
out of their societies, out of their laws -- out of the
structures that oppress, that imprison, that violate the rights
of God and of humanity.

This is the hard service of the word.

But God's Spirit goes with the prophet, with the preacher, for
he is Christ, who keeps on proclaiming his reign to the people of
all times. December 10, 1977

When we struggle for human rights, for freedom, for dignity,
when we feel that it is a ministry of the church to concern
itself for those who are hungry, for those who are deprived, we
are not departing from God's promise. He comes to free us from
sin, and the church knows that sin's consequences are all such
injustices and abuses. The church knows it is saving the world
when it undertakes to speak also of such things. December 18,
1977

For the church, the many abuses of human life, liberty, and
dignity are a heartfelt suffering. The church, entrusted with the
earth's glory, believes that in each person is the Creator's
image and that everyone who tramples it offends God. As holy
defender of God's rights and of his images, the church must cry
out. It takes as spittle in its face, as lashes on its back, as
the cross in its passion, all that human beings suffer, even
though they be unbelievers. They suffer as God's images. There is
no dichotomy between man and God's image.

Whoever tortures a human being, whoever abuses a human being,
whoever outrages a human being, abuses God's image, and the
church takes as its own that cross, that martyrdom. December 31,
1977

Death is the sign of sin, and sin produces death right in our
midst: violence, murder, torture (which leaves so many dead),
hacking with machetes, throwing into the sea -- people discarded!
All this is the reign of hell. July 4, 1979

When Father Rafael Palacios was murdered in Santa Tecla, and his
body was laid out here, I said that he was still preaching,
calling attention not only to crimes outside the church, but to
sins within the church. The prophet also decries sins inside the
church. And why not? We bishops, popes, priests, nuns, Catholic
educators -- we are human, and as humans we are sinful and we
need someone to be a prophet for us too and call us to conversion
and not let us set up religion as something untouchable. Religion
needs prophets, and thank God we have them, because it would be a
sad church that felt itself owner of the truth and rejected
everything else. A church that only condemns, a church that sees
sin only in others and does not look at the beam in its own eye,
is not the authentic church of Christ. July 8, 1979

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