The movie Romero is based on the true story of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the political unrest in El Salvador during the 1970s. The movie depicts the atrocities that the government and military were committing against the Salvadoran people. Women were being raped and killed; everyday laborers were sometimes slaughtered at random; and priests, too, were being murdered. Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, became a voice for the voiceless speaking out against the injustices, and he paid the ultimate price. On March 24, 1980, he was shot to death while celebrating Mass.
In this Sunday’s gospel we return once again to the synagogue. St. Luke tells us that when Jesus was speaking in the synagogue the people spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. Yet, at the end of this gospel the same people rose up, drove him out of town, and led him to the brow of the hill to hurl him down! That’s a pretty radical change. What happened?
Jesus was reading to the people from the Prophet Isaiah. They thought they understood God’s prophetic word. But when Jesus reveals to them that he is the One about whom the Scripture is speaking they are unable to accept it. Their hearts were closed to the Truth.
Things haven’t changed much in two thousands years. The bottom line is that Jesus did not come to preach an easy gospel, and if we want to live the fullness of life that Jesus came to bring us then we need to embrace the whole gospel truth, not just the parts that we like. In many ways, people react to the Church today the same way the people reacted to Christ in the synagogue. When the Church teaches something that they agree with then they applaud the Church. However, when the Church reiterates something they disagree with then they criticize the Church.
I once heard it said that the task of the Church in every age is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. Archbishop Romero was afflicting the consciences of those who were oppressing and killing the poor. He fearlessly proclaimed the truth and he was martyred for it. Following Christ and living the gospel is not always easy. The Church is charged with teaching the fullness of the gospel. At times, in our hearts, we might struggle to agree with Holy Mother Church on a variety of issues; yet, shouldn’t we possess the humility to be open and the humility to be taught the truth so that we can live in true freedom?
Let’s not be like those who wanted to throw Jesus out of the synagogue because they couldn’t receive the truth. Let’s embrace the fullness of the gospel and allow our lives to be shaped by it rather than try to shape the gospel to fit our lives.
Father Michael Najim is Spiritual Director of Our Lady of Providence Seminary, Providence, as well as Catholic Chaplain at LaSalle Academy, Providence.