Easter is Resurrection, the triumph of the poor living under empire, the final victory of life over death.
Today as we face multiple crises, from the global pandemic to economic recession to the loss of loved ones and essential social contact, we remember Saint Oscar Romero.
Romero was Archbishop of San Salvador during the late 1970s and railed from the pulpit against the brutal US-backed regime until that regime assassinated him on March 24, 1980.
This priest took seriously Christian theology’s preferential option for the poor. He knew this path put him in harm’s way, in much the same way as Jesus of Nazareth did, and for precisely the same reasons. Just weeks before he was gunned down at the altar during Mass, Romero said, “As a Christian I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I will be resurrected in the Salvadoran people.”
Today the poor of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and many other countries languish in death camps on the southern US border, unable to practice social distancing, hand washing or other sanitary practices. Others in detention facilities around the country have held protests and hunger strikes, demanding release due to the potentially fatal danger of COVID-19. Many millions of other immigrants and their native-born poor brothers and sisters are out of work without pay, sick leave or other social welfare protections. The homeless continue to be “swept” from their encampments, told by police to “move along” despite shelter-in-place orders.
Saint Romero, as the living unsung saints of today, walks and fights and grieves in these narrow places.
This Easter, let us remember the victory of life over the death-dealing policies and systems of yesterday and today. Yet may the triumph of Easter not overshadow the continual assassinations by Empire or the ongoing need for prophetic voices to set the world right.
For a longer reflection on Oscar Romero’s life and death and the people who shaped his convictions, see the following article that Celina Foran and I wrote in 2015 as Romero was moved closer to sainthood.