From fear to hope

NOTE: Salvadoran Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez will be in Kansas City Friday, March 28, Visitation Parish at 7 pm. He comes to celebrate the life and martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero 27 years ago. For more information, go here. This is a speech he gave in San Salvador in and comes courtesy of SHARE El Salvador.

By Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez

Last Sunday at 5:30pm I passed this plaza on the way to the airport. Preparations for a party were under way, a party that never happened. We listened to my transistor radio all the way to the airport. I continued listening to the radio inside the airport and also once aboard the airplane. The early news was not too optimistic. ….

Many Salvadorans fear the future and fear hope; that’s why last Sunday what happened, happened. That night I listened to interesting commentaries on [the] radio. It was a conversation between Carlos Ayala and invited guest experts. They too were amazed at the results. As I listened, I thought of something Monsignor Romero said in 1978. “The first thing that an education must do is to center a person in the current reality, teach him how to analyze it, and how to be critically aware of his own reality. Education must prepare one to be aware, conscientious and a democratic political participant. What good this would do!”

Although we have made great advances, we still have to work on this education. We must educate for democracy, educate for political participation, educate for true citizenship. The bishops of El Salvador published a Pastoral Letter in recent days on this very theme – that we must develop lay leadership capable of transforming the world, of transforming history…

…As I look to the future, I think of three words. The first is challenge; the second is discernment and the third is commitment.

The challenge is that with the reality we experience today – as Monsignor Romero did in his day, which were much more difficult times than ours– we must preach good news. He said one day in his homily as he thought of his death: “The Word remains and that is the consolation of the one who announces it. My voice will disappear, but my word, which is Christ, will remain in the hearts of those who want to hear it.” Our challenge is to kep going without losing hope.

Next we must discern. And here we must consider several elements of discenrment: first, an objective analysis of what happened; second, a self-analysis; and third, the courage and humility to accept the truth.

And finally, commitment. We must commit to say NO to fear and YES to hope. We must do this in an atmosphere of togetherness and open dialogue. We must avoid the tensions that are already surfacing and the wish to see heads roll. If we follow that course we will all end up losing. But for this future which we all dream of we must make a commitment. We sang about it in our opening hymn: “Each one with his own stool has a place at the table and a mission”. What is our mission, the mission of the church? The church, all the churches, have a responsibility to accompany our people in their own identity and with full freedom.

The political leaders also have a responsibility. They must not forget that their primary commitment is to the good of all — especially the poor, the marginalized and the excluded. In the same way, leaders of the social movement have a responsibility – to not give up because of exhaustion, pessimism or divisions. And there is a responsibility for us Christians as well, those of us who profess to be followers of Christ…. We must not forget that our belief in the Life Eternal calls us to transform this present world.

In the Bishop’s Pastoral Letter, “Christ’s Witness in the Church and in the World” #51, we remember Monsignor Romero: “In his last homily, Monignor Romero read a text from the Vatican II Council in its entirety. ‘The expectation of a world to come,’ it says, ‘should not deaden, but rather awaken, the desire to improve this present world.’ Faith in eternal life does not remove us, but rather gives us an invincible energy to transform history according to the saving plan of God revealed in Christ. This is the impassioned task of the lay faithful, because progress made in this temporal world, ‘to the extent that it contributes to improving human society, actually contributes to the Kingdom of God.’”

Tonight we want to recommit to the poor of El Salvador. We cannot sit with our arms crossed, crying over our loss. On the contrary, we have to give heart and soul to this country. If we remain with our arms crossed this country will not regain its soul. It will be at the service of wealth and not of human beings. If we remain with our arms crossed, we will never achieve Saint Irineo’s affirmation which Monsignor Romero mentioned in his speech at Louvaine, “The glory of God is that the poor have life.”

If we remain with our arms crossed we will have Heavy Hand* and Super Heavy Hand*, but not God’s tender love which wants every person to have opportunity in this life. I wrote a letter, from Mexico, to the new President, saying that we would like to talk to him about youth violence. I said that we saw the problem from the point of view of the causes and not the effects, and that we have a motto, “Youth in crisis have the right to an opportunity.” In the third century a very beautiful letter was written. That letter said: “The soul is to the body what Christians must be to the world.” That is what we want to be, Monsignor Romero, in your memory and for the Glory of God.

But there is also a responsibility, going back to my theme, that men and women — even non- believers — must have a commitment to human dignity. We ask that you not lose the dream that one day things can be different…

…In your presence and with the whole country hearing this homily, I want to say a few words to the new President of El Salvador. First, that this country needs us all. This country will not succeed unless we are all included in a National Project that favors the most marginalized. My second message to the future President is that many poor have believed in his campaign promises. We will be watching to make sure those promises become a reality. My third word is about youth violence. Why do youth turn to violence? Why do youth turn to drugs? Why are doors slammed in their faces? Why can’t they complete their education? Why can’t they find dignified work? Why do they feel they have no future? Why are their hopes killed? Let us hope then that we can work with you on your government’s programs so that the poor can have life and have it abundantly.

As I was coming over to the cathedral I asked myself: “What can I do to lift my people’s spirits? But then, Monsignor Romero has already lifted them.

So now let us convert our dream into fervent prayer and commitment. We want a different country – one that is just, fraternal, in solidarity, and in peace. We aren’t alone in this task. The whole world is watching us with admiration and with sympathy. Monsignor Romero continues to inspire our journey and God continues to walk with his people. Let us now pray together that God, through our hands, can build this world we dream of — because God does not have hands, he has only our hands.

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