Daily Prayer for February 24
For I am the Lord your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar – the Lord Almighty is his name. I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand – I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, “You are my people.” Isaiah 51:15-16, NIV
Lord God Almighty, your eyes watch over the whole world. We come before you with the evils that surround us still clinging to us. Shelter our lives in your hands. Give us your strength to win through, even in suffering and need. For we are yours, O Lord our God. You have chosen your people to strengthen them and to free them from all evil. We beseech you to help us. May we feel your presence among us. May your Word bear fruit in us to the everlasting honor of your name. Amen.
People use up their lives in heartbreaking political struggles, or get themselves killed in civil wars, or tortured in the secret prisons of the Gestapo, not in order to establish some central-heated, air-conditioned, strip-lighted Paradise, but because they want a world in which human beings love one another instead of swindling and murdering one another.
The Daily Word of Hope Devotional
The Promise Keeper
For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Romans 11:29 WEB
I know a dad that once bought his son a car because he had taken a turn for the better. Not very long after this, his son got a DUI with the car and the dad took it back and sold it. I don’t blame the dad, and may have done the same, but often our gifts are more of a bonus or a reward, than an actual gift.
Many times when we give gifts to someone, it is based on their behavior or performance. If we can take it back, then it’s not really a gift, and it was never truly theirs to begin with.
God does not take back His love, His gifts, or His calling of us no matter what we do. It is not based on our performance, or our behavior, though we should try and live right. He did not call us, or give us the gifts in our life because we were good. It is because He is good, and He is faithful to keep His promises.
When I was young, God told me to prepare myself because one day I would be in the ministry, and I would be a teacher of His word. This was over twenty-five years ago when I was in my late teens.
After years of preparing for ministry, attending Bible college after work, getting a degree, studying, praying, fasting, there was a train wreck right in the middle of it. I went through a long drawn out divorce and it got really ugly, but I knew when I started contemplating ending it all, that it was time for change.
I resolved to just make the best of what was left of my life and forgot about ministry altogether. One day while praying this verse came to mind and I heard: ‘What I have told you, I will do.’ I was pretty sure that I had ruined God’s plan for me, but I just wrote it in my journal and waited to see what would happen.
In time I was herded into ministry like cattle through a loading chute. Now here I am writing this and looking back through a string of unplanned jobs, it appears that He equipped and trained me for this along the way. Like Joseph, the things that I went through only brought me closer to His goal. He keeps His promises.
No matter what you have done in your life, the same gifts, the same calling, the same love, is still there. It is only dormant. Don’t distance yourself from God because you think that you messed it up. When God gives us something, it comes with no strings attached, and He does not take it back. When your life is submitted to Him, the things that you are going through will only bring you closer to His goal.
Prayer: Heavenly Father I thank You for all that You do for me. My life has taken unexpected twists and turns, but here I am Lord, ready to serve You as best I can. Take me, use me, speak to me and through me, in the name of Jesus Christ I pray.
Bible Fun Fact: Zechariah had a staff named Favor, and another named Union (Zech 11:7).
Verse of the Day….
Jesus: ‘Take Me Into Your Heart’
Note from Jesus
Don’t miss the heartbreak of the events described in the Scripture below. Despite all I had said and had done, people turned away from Me. As long as I would do miracles for them, they were quite happy to hang around with Me. But when I would not do their wish list miracles-on-demand and when I told them the truth about My divinity, they got testy with Me and My followers. In fact, many quit following Me.
So here’s the challenge. You need to take Me — My truth, My power, and My words — into your heart. Some of the things I ask of you will be hard — some of them hard to do and some of them hard to understand. But here’s the point: to the best of your ability and empowered by the Holy Spirit within you, do what I ask, believe what I say, and live what I teach. My words are life-giving and life-preserving. The Holy Spirit is at work giving you guidance, using you in My service, and conforming you to My words.
There will be times when you are confused. Some of that confusion will be because life is hard. Sometimes your confusion will come from your own selfishness and rebelliousness. Some of your confusion will be there because some of what I say can be hard to understand or you are not ready for it. But despite all the shortcomings you can find in Peter and My other apostles, please notice Peter’s words — spoken for all of the apostles. I asked if they would walk away from Me, too, and this is what Peter said:
“Lord, if we were to go, whom would we follow? You speak the words that give everlasting life. We believe and recognize that You are the Holy One sent by God.”
Verses to Live
Some of the Jews began to grumble quietly against Him [Jesus] because He said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”
Isn’t Jesus the son of Joseph? We know His parents! We know where He came from, so how can He claim to have “come down from heaven”?
Stop grumbling under your breaths. If the Father Who sent Me does not draw you, then there’s no way you can come to Me. But I will resurrect everyone who does come on the last day. Among the prophets, it’s written, “Everyone will be taught of God.” So everyone who has heard and learned from the Father finds Me. No one has seen the Father, except the One sent from God. He has seen the Father. I am telling you the truth: the one who accepts these things has eternal life. I am the bread that gives life. Your fathers ate manna in the wilderness, and they died as you know. But there is another bread that comes from heaven; if you eat this bread, you will not die. I am the living bread that has come down from heaven to rescue those who eat it. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever. The bread that I will give breathes life into the cosmos. This bread is My flesh.
The low whispers of some of Jesus’ detractors turned into an out-and-out debate.
What is He talking about? How is He able to give us His flesh to eat?
I tell you the truth; unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you will not know life. If you eat My flesh and drink My blood, then you will have eternal life and I will raise you up at the end of time. My flesh and blood provide true nourishment. If you eat My flesh and drink My blood, you will abide in Me and I will abide in you. The Father of life Who sent Me has given life to Me; and as you eat My flesh, I will give life to you. This is bread that came down from heaven; I am not like the manna that your fathers ate and then died! If you eat this bread, your life will never end.
He spoke these words in the synagogue as part of His teaching mission in Capernaum. Many disciples heard what He said, and they had questions of their own.
How are we supposed to understand all of this? It is a hard teaching.
Jesus was aware that even His disciples were murmuring about this.
Has My teaching offended you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascend to return to where He came from? The Spirit brings life. The flesh has nothing to offer. The words I have been teaching you are spirit and life, but some of you do not believe.
From the first day Jesus began to call disciples, He knew those who did not have genuine faith. He knew, too, who would betray Him.
This is why I have been telling you that no one comes to Me without the Father’s blessing and guidance.
After hearing these teachings, many of His disciples walked away and no longer followed Jesus.
Jesus (to the twelve):
Do you want to walk away too?
Lord, if we were to go, whom would we follow? You speak the words that give everlasting life. We believe and recognize that You are the Holy One sent by God.
I chose each one of you, the twelve, Myself. But one of you is a devil.
This cryptic comment referred to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, for he was the one of the twelve who was going to betray Him.
Response in Prayer
Holy and Almighty God, I believe that Jesus is Your Son and my Savior. I believe that He has the words of life. I may not always understand them. I may not always want to hear them. I may wrestle with always obeying them, but Father, I do believe that Jesus gives me the words of life. I choose to believe, obey, and follow Him. I pray, dear Father, for the strength of the Holy Spirit to help me remain faithful to this commitment. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.
The killings sent shock waves through the United States Congress, which was monitoring human rights in El Salvador. For the past decade, Congress had been funding the right-wing Salvadoran government’s civil war against rebels demanding political and economic reform. However, these appropriations depended on official certifications by the Reagan and Bush administrations that human-rights abuses by El Salvador’s government and paramilitary forces were declining.
Yet shortly after 10 p.m. on November 15, Colonel René Emilio Ponce, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of El Salvador, in collusion with the country’s highest ranking military officials, ordered Colonel Guillermo Alfredo Benavides to eliminate the Jesuits at the university, specifically Ignacio Ellacuría, the university president and the country’s leading public intellectual: “Kill Father Ellacuría and leave no witnesses.”1
The meeting took place at the national military academy, of which Colonel Benavides was director. Within the hour, he summoned Lieutenant Ricardo Espinoza, a young graduate of San Salvador’s Jesuit high school, and ordered him to carry out the assassination. The targets included not only Ellacuría but also Lieutenant Espinoza’s former high-school principal. “It’s them or us!” Benavides told Espinoza.2 The young officer, who attempted to hide his identity with camouflage grease, later testified that his eyes filled with tears as he hurriedly left the scene of the crime after giving the order for the killing.3The United Nations Commission on the Truth for El Salvador states that around 2:30 a.m. on November 16, Ellacuría and four fellow Spanish-born Jesuits were executed with machine guns by Espinoza’s unit as they lay face down in the grass behind the Jesuit residence at the university. One neighbor reports that “just before the gunfire” she heard “rhythmic whispering, like a psalmody of a group in prayer.”4
Minutes later, Elba Ramos, a cook for the university, and her sixteen-year-old daughter Celina were repeatedly shot as they huddled in each other’s arms in the Jesuit residence, where they had sought refuge. The brutality ended with the murder of an elderly Salvadoran-born Jesuit priest in his room. Several sources later testified that El Salvador’s newly elected president, Alfredo Cristiani, was present at the national military academy at the time when the attack was planned and that he met with Colonel Ponce and other military officials during the operation.In addition to Father Ellacuría, the Jesuits who died included Father Ignacio Martín-Baró, a university vice president and the director of El Salvador’s only functioning public-opinion poll; Father Segundo Montes, director of the university’s Human Rights Institute and superior of the Jesuit community; Father Amando López, professor of theology and philosophy and former president of the university’s sister institution in Managua; Father Joaquin López y López, national director of Fe y Alegría, a program for children in poverty; and Father Juan Ramón Moreno, assistant director of the newly constructed Óscar Romero Pastoral Center, built by the Jesuits to commemorate the archbishop of San Salvador who had died nine years earlier by a rightwing assassin’s bullet.
Why Were They Killed?
One month after the murders, Major Eric Warren Buckland, a senior US military advisor in El Salvador, testified that his Salvadoran counterpart, Colonel Carlos Armando Avilés Buitrago, chief of psychological operations for the Salvadoran Joint Command, informed him in advance of the planned killing; afterward the same source confirmed both that the crime had been committed by specific high-ranking Salvadoran military officers, and that it was being covered up.5
Major Buckland’s account matched the testimony of Lucía Cerna, a neighbor of the Jesuit fathers and the only living witness to the crime. Both Major Buckland and Cerna would come under intense pressure from the FBI to back away from their stories implicating Salvadoran forces; Buckland soon recanted his admission of prior knowledge of the killings. Newsweek later reported, “The [George H. W. Bush] administration didn’t want that story to come out . . . because it wasn’t productive to the conduct of the war.”6Thus the orders to kill Father Ellacuría and his colleagues came from the highest levels of the Salvadoran military and may have been approved by the country’s president, possibly with the knowledge of US military officials. For the Salvadoran government, the killings were extraordinarily risky; if they came to light they would implicate the entire military command structure and embarrass the United States.
Why take such a high-stakes gamble in order to kill one priest and a handful of associates? Evidently, the Salvadoran government viewed Ignacio Ellacuría and the University of Central America (UCA) as a serious threat to the United States’ continued backing. The government was well aware that if the US Congress became concerned about human-rights abuses by its Salvadoran ally, it might withdraw its crucial support. Inconveniently, Ellacuría and his fellow Jesuits at the UCA were scrupulously documenting the government’s systemic violations of human rights and its vicious repression of Salvadoran civil society. What’s more, they publicly advocated peace negotiations with the rebels in order to put an end to the cycle of violence. To the country’s governing elites, Ellacuría and his colleagues were jeopardizing the US support they needed to win a definitive victory over a leftist insurgency. They were traitors, and deserved to be treated as such.
The UCA Jesuits, by contrast, believed that it was their duty as Christians and Catholics to speak up for human rights and to advocate for a negotiated peace. Their vision was grounded in the teaching of the “preferential option for the poor” issued by the 1968 conference of Latin American bishops meeting in Medellín, Colombia, in response to the recently concluded Vatican II council. This “preferential option,” they believed, required Christians to share God’s special love for the poor and downtrodden as illustrated throughout the Old and New Testaments. Echoing the language of Medellín, the university’s 1979 mission statement declares that “the most explicit testimony of the Christian inspiration of the UCA will be putting itself really at the service of the people in such a way that in this service it allows itself to be oriented by the oppressed people themselves.”7
There was an influence on the Jesuits’ work more immediate than Medellín’s teaching of social justice: the example of the martyr Archbishop Óscar Romero. Ellacuría would speak of the UCA Jesuits’ “commitment to do in our university way what [Archbishop Romero] did in his pastoral way.”8
His colleague Jon Sobrino, a UCA Jesuit who survived the 1989 killings because he happened to be away from campus that night, argues that Ellacuría and the UCA learned to fulfill their mission by watching Romero run the San Salvador archdiocese from the perspective of a preferential option for the poor.Thus the Jesuits of the UCA and Óscar Romero formed a company of martyrs bound together by a common conviction that the gospel must become good news to the poor. No outcome could have seemed less likely to anyone who knew of the active antagonism with which Romero’s and Ellacuría’s relationship began. Their remarkable story is told in the following pages, starting at the beginning.
Óscar Romero, Guardian of Orthodoxy
The Central American Jesuits began reorganizing their work in the early 1970s in an effort to embrace the Medellín call to stand with the poor. They understood this to mean actively supporting the rights of campesinos and civilian movements promoting social, economic, and political reform and the end of military rule. Ellacuría and the UCA worked throughout the decade to reframe the university’s “principal mission as that of being the critical and creative conscience”9
of the country and by taking positions in favor of urgent reforms to address the marginalization of the country’s impoverished majorities.Óscar Romero emerged at the same moment as one of the Jesuit’s chief opponents among the Salvadoran bishops. He was then an auxiliary bishop in the San Salvador archdiocese and secretary of the bishops’ conference of El Salvador. Romero’s actions and statements from 1970 to 1976 betray a deep suspicion and even hostility toward Ellacuría’s interpretation of Medellín as a call for the church to become more involved in movements for social change.
Reacting to the ferment following Vatican II, Romero was tradionalist in his approach to the role of the church in society. His approach has been called “quasi-corporatist,” and it finds support in certain statements in the documents of Medellín, side by side with affirmations of the preferential option for the poor.10
According to this view, the church’s role is that of a unifying social institution, promoting what Medellín calls “socialization understood as a sociocultural process of personalization and communal growth” so that “all of the sectors of society, . . . [especially] the social-economic sphere, should, because of justice and brotherhood, transcend antagonisms in order to become agents of national and continental development.”11
Romero’s commitment to this vision of the church as unifier and social glue, along with other more personal factors, rendered him deeply suspicious of theological and pastoral approaches involving prophetic denunciations of state-sponsored violence. Romero’s public statements and writings from this period as editor of the diocesan newspaper Orientación consistently characterize such views as politically naive distortions of Catholic teaching; such approaches, he suggested, were unduly influenced by communist ideas, and dangerously politicized the role of the church in Salvadoran society.
In the tinderbox atmosphere of El Salvador, Romero’s accusations had real consequences. His very public attacks against clergy who were critical of the government helped to marginalize their voices and provided cover for repressive actions against those calling for change. In early 1972, for example, the Central Elections Council, which was known to be controlled by a pro-military faction, fraudulently declared Colonel Arturo Armando Molina winner of that year’s presidential election. Molina’s opponents had run on a platform promising desperately needed agrarian reforms. When the stolen election was exposed by a UCA investigation, many seminarians refused to sing at the liturgy for Molina’s inauguration. They charged that the church, by allowing this event to be celebrated in the cathedral in the presence of the papal nuncio, was giving wrongful legitimation to a fraudulent government. Romero rightly suspected that the seminarians had learned of the UCA’s investigation from their Jesuit professors, and regarded their protest as a dangerous foray into politics. As one Jesuit, Father Juan Hernández Pico, recalled, Romero responded to the protest by making “the problem his personal issue. The pope and his nuncio had been attacked, and the hierarchy of the church had been insulted. How could it be worse?”12
Romero then “started to actively support the expulsion of the Jesuits from the seminary,” saying that they “were the ones that were putting ideas into the seminarians’ heads and had to go.” Romero added ominously, “If they’re not removed, we reserve the right to take other measures.” This was a threat (at least in part) to bring the matter to the attention of Vatican officials, something Romero actually did on this and other issues. In the end, the Jesuits were removed after fifty years of service and “Monseñor Romero took charge of the seminary.” Pico says, “He was satisfied. Orthodoxy had triumphed.” Years later Archbishop Romero would apologize to Father Amando López (formerly part of the seminary faculty) for his role in pushing the Jesuits out of the seminary. But in 1972, he was content.
Romero’s Personal Conversion:
Santiago de María
In 1974, Romero was named bishop of a rural diocese about seventy miles southeast of San Salvador called Santiago de María in Usulután. Here he would remain for the next three years. During this period, something in Romero began to change. His coworkers would later point to Romero’s encounter with the terrible suffering of rural farm workers as decisive; these experiences opened his heart and mind to Medellín’s preferential option for the poor.13
Still, Romero wasn’t ready for public confrontations. At one o’clock in the morning on June 21, 1975, members of the National Guard entered Tres Calles, a village in Romero’s diocese, ransacking the houses of five farm workers in a search for weapons and murdering the unarmed men in front of their families. Zacarias Diez and Juan Macho, Passionist priests working in the diocese, recall that they and other colleagues told Romero, “We must do something, bishop,”14 and proposed several forms of public response. “But Monseñor was on another wavelength and didn’t think like us.” Instead, Romero wrote an anguished letter to his friend President Molina and a summary of the events for the Salvadoran bishops. Looking back, the priests reflect: “It is true; he did something. It was an energetic protest and a strong denouncement.” On the other hand, however, “it was not public. It was private, since he still believed that denunciations from authority to authority were more effective.”
Later that year, in December 1975, Pope Paul VI published his apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, linking evangelization in the modern world to prophetic denunciations of poverty and oppression. To many in Latin America, it sounded as if the pope was echoing Medellín’s declaration of a preferential option for the poor. According to those close to Romero at the time, Paul VI’s words prompted him to reconsider the high priority he had given to maintaining good relations between the church and the government. In the face of state-sponsored violence against his people, and the vilification of his clergy for educating and defending them, Romero gradually came to accept Medellín’s discernment that God was calling the Latin American church to support and defend the poor.
Romero’s Social Conversion:
The Death of Rutilio Grande
Romero’s role in the dismissal of the Jesuits as directors of El Salvador’s diocesan seminary in 1972 was only the latest in a series of skirmishes between conservative Salvadoran bishops and the Jesuits. Already in 1970, the bishops had rejected the nomination of the Jesuit priest Rutilio Grande as rector of the seminary in response to the Jesuits’ Medellín-inspired agenda there, according to Rodolfo Cardenal, a Jesuit priest. Father Grande reacted to this vote of no confidence by taking a leave of absence from the seminary faculty to study new pastoral approaches in Peru. When he returned in September 1972, around the time of Romero’s takeover of the seminary from the Jesuits, his services as a professor were no longer required and he was assigned as pastor to a parish church in the town of Aguilares. Over the next five years this parish was to become the site of a new Jesuit ministry among rural farm workers, the poorest Salvadorans. Father Grande had traded the comfortable confines of the diocesan seminary for a dangerous new rural ministry among the country’s increasingly restive farm workers.
As a result of these and similar initiatives, Father Grande, Ignacio Ellacuría, and other Jesuits were soon accused of being “communists in sheep’s clothing” by organizations like the Committee for the Defense of the Fatherland. This explosive rhetoric reaped its predictable harvest on March 12, 1977, when Father Grande was ambushed by the national police, taken from his jeep, and executed.
Less than three weeks before Rutilio Grande’s killing, Romero had been appointed as archbishop of San Salvador, to the consternation of those priests who had been most active in advocating for the poor. Both they and the political conservatives who had applauded Romero’s appointment were in for a surprise. As Romero later put it, “Father Grande’s death and the death of other priests after his impelled me to take an energetic attitude before the government.”15
Despite the archbishop’s differences with the Jesuits, he and Grande had been friends. “I remember that because of Father Grande’s death I made a statement that I would not attend any official acts until this situation [ascertaining who had killed Rutilio] was clarified.” Thus, “a rupture was produced, not by me with the government but [by] the government itself because of its attitude.”
Here Romero differentiates his earlier “gradual evolution” toward a personal preferential option for the poor from his decision following Rutilio’s death to “respond to the situation in the country as a pastor” by publicly denouncing the government’s abuse of human rights. Romero, it seems, underwent two conversions: first a personal conversion, characterized by his gradual decision in Santiago de María to assume personal responsibility for the suffering of his people; and second, a socio-political conversion following the assassination of Rutilio. After this second conversion, Romero began to publicly address the systematic and ongoing violations of human rights in the country.
Ellacuría, reflecting on this second conversion of his former opponent Romero, would later write that Rutilio Grande’s killing confronted the archbishop with three imperatives:16 a demand to grasp the reality of Father Grande’s priestly ministry with the peasant farm workers of Aguilares and why that ministry led to his death; an ethical demand to assume public responsibility as part of his mission as archbishop to accompany and defend the terrorized peasants of Aguilares and El Salvador whom Father Grande left behind; and a praxis-related demand as archbishop to help those peasants, both within the church and in Salvadoran society.
Spiritual Leader of El Salvador
Three months after Father Grande’s death, Archbishop Romero drove to the deceased priest’s parish of Aguilares. The town had recently been subjected to a full-scale siege by the military in an action appropriately named Operation Rutilio. Soldiers had taken over the town, shot an elderly sacristan as he rang the church bells, arrested and deported the town’s three Jesuit priests, and assassinated about fifty people including campesino leaders. In coming to Aguilares, Archbishop Romero’s mission was to install a new pastor and celebrate Mass with the terrorized community.
The service ended with a procession of the Blessed Sacrament out of the church, Archbishop Romero in the rear and the crowd in front. Jon Sobrino, who was present, offers a remarkable description of what happened next. As the crowd flowed into the square in front of the church, armed troops were stationed in front of the town hall opposite. As the procession approached the soldiers, the crowd stopped, uneasy and afraid. Sobrino writes:
We had no idea what might happen…. [So] we all instinctively turned around and looked at Monseñor Romero, who was bringing up the rear, holding the monstrance. “¡Adelante!” (Forward!), said Monseñor Romero. And we went right ahead. The procession ended without incident. From that moment forward, Monseñor Romero was the symbolic leader of El Salvador. He made no such claim. He had sought no such thing. But this is the way it was. From then on Monseñor Romero led us, marching at our head. He had been transformed into the central reference point for the church and for the country. Nothing of any importance occurred in our country over the next three years without our all turning to Monseñor Romero for guidance and direction, for leadership.17
Over those three years, Romero served as spiritual leader and shepherd for the nation, speaking to his fellow Salvadorans in weekly radio sermons that drew huge audiences. In one such sermon on March 23, 1980, Romero called on Salvadoran soldiers to refuse to obey orders that violated God’s law. The next day he was shot and killed while saying Mass. The sniper had been hired by former Major Robert D’Aubuisson, a leader in El Salvador’s right-wing faction.18
Learning from a Martyr
Ellacuría responded to the archbishop’s death by writing an homage whose title alone shows how much had changed in the eight years since Romero had evicted the Jesuits from the seminary: “Monseñor Romero, a Man Sent by God to Save His Country.” Romero, wrote Ellacuría, “was the teacher” and the UCA “was the assistant,” Romero “was the voice and…[the UCA] was the echo.”
In the same article, Ellacuría describes the lessons that the UCA learned from its mentor.19 The Jesuits learned how “to historicize the power of the gospel” by running the university, like the archdiocese, with special concern for the needs of the poor. Previously the university had focused almost exclusively on El Salvador’s elites. But Archbishop Romero showed the UCA that when the church embraced the sufferings and hopes of El Salvador’s poor majorities, “what had been an opaque, amorphous, and ineffective word became a torrent of life to which the people drew near in order to quench their thirst.” Romero’s example demonstrated how “the power of the gospel could become a transformative historical force.”
Accordingly, after the archbishop’s death the UCA became a new kind of Christian university – one focused on making God’s love of the poor real in El Salvador. For example, it sought ways to increase participation by the country’s dispossessed majorities in the debate over how to resolve the country’s civil war. Ellacuría summarized his vision in a 1982 address at Santa Clara University, arguing that “a university of Christian inspiration is one that focuses all its university activity… within the illuminating horizon of…a Christian preferential option for the poor.”20 The university’s task, he said, is to serve as an “intellectual support for those who…possess truth and reason…but who do not have the academic arguments to justify and legitimate them.”
It was for courageously living out this vocation that Father Ellacuría and his brother Jesuits gave up their lives.
Blood and Ink
When the murdered priests were found on the morning of November 16, 1989, a blood-soaked copy of Jürgen Moltmann’s book The Crucified God was discovered near the body of Father Moreno. Today it is preserved in the university’s museum, just feet from where its owner died. It serves as a visceral sign of the cost of this ultimately unsuccessful attempt to silence the voice of scholars who, for almost two decades, had documented the sufferings of the people of El Salvador. The blood and ink mingled on its pages serve as a fitting symbol of the faith, hope, and love that animated these men.
In 2009, Jon Sobrino wrote a letter to his deceased friend Ellacuría titled “Monseñor Romero and You”:
People know that both of you were eloquent prophets and martyrs,…[but] I like to remember another important similarity, which is how you began. Each of you was given a Christian and Salvadoran torch, and without any kind of discernment made the fundamental choice to keep it burning. Monseñor Romero received it from Rutilio Grande the night they killed him. And when Monseñor Romero died, you picked it up.”21
Sobrino believes it is crucial to remember “that in El Salvador there was a grand tradition” which was “passed from hand to hand” of “dedication and love for the poor, confrontation with oppressors, steadiness in conflict, and the hope and the dream [of the kingdom of God]” grounded in “the Jesus of the gospel and the mystery of his God.” And he insists, “We must not squander that legacy and we need to make it available to the young.”
Twenty-five years after the martyrdom of the UCA Jesuits and thirty-five years after the martyrdom of Archbishop Romero, what can we learn from their example? In 1982, Ellacuría counseled graduating seniors to respond by following the example of the company of martyrs who preceded them:
Just place your whole human heart before the reality of a crucified world, and ask yourselves the three questions that Ignatius of Loyola put to himself as he stood before [an image of the crucified Christ], the representative of all those who are crucified: What have I done for this world? What am I doing for it now? And above all, what should I do? The answers lie both in your personal and academic responsibility.22
Robert Lassalle-Klein, professor of religious studies and philosophy at Holy Names University and cofounder of the Oakland Catholic Worker, is the author of Blood and Ink: Ignacio Ellacuría, Jon Sobrino, and the Jesuit Martyrs of the University of Central America (Orbis, 2014); this article is adapted from the book.
All photographs courtesy of the author.
Is come to rifle Satan’s fold;
All hell doth at his presence quake.
Though he himself for cold do shake,
For in this weak unarmèd wise
The gates of hell he will surprise.
With tears he fights and wins the field;
His naked breast stands for a shield;
His battering shot are babish cries,
His arrows looks of weeping eyes,
His martial ensigns cold and need,
And feeble flesh his warrior’s steed.
His camp is pitchèd in a stall,
His bulwark but a broken wall,
The crib his trench, hay stalks his stakes,
Of shepherds he his muster makes;
And thus, as sure his foe to wound,
The angels’ trumps alarum sound.
My soul, with Christ join thou in fight;
Stick to the tents that he hath pight;
Within his crib is surest ward,
This little babe will be thy guard.
If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy,
Then flit not from this heavenly boy.
The Gospel teaches that Christ was born, and that he died and suffered everything on our behalf, as is here declared by the angel. In these words you clearly see that he is born for us.
He does not simply say, Christ is born, but to you he is born, neither does he say, I bring glad tidings, but to you I bring glad tidings of great joy. Furthermore, this joy was not to remain in Christ, but it shall be to all the people. For this purpose Christ willed to be born, that through him we might be born anew.
O, this is the great joy of which the angel speaks. This is the comfort and exceeding goodness of God that, if anyone believes this, he can boast of the treasure that Mary is his rightful mother, Christ his brother, and God his father. For these things actually occurred and are true, but we must believe. This is the principal thing and the principal treasure in every Gospel. Christ must above all things become our own and we become his. This is what is meant by Isaiah: “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” To us, to us, to us is born, and to us is given this child.
Therefore see to it that you do not treat the Gospel only as history, for that is only transient; neither regard it only as an example, for it is of no value without faith. Rather, see to it that you make this birth your own and that Christ be born in you. This will be the case if you believe, then you will repose in the lap of the Virgin Mary and be her dear child. But you must exercise this faith and pray while you live; you cannot establish it too firmly. This is our foundation and inheritance, upon which good works must be built.
The Gospel does not merely teach about the history of Christ. No, it enables all who believe it to receive it as their own, which is the way the Gospel operates. Of what benefit would it be to me if Christ had been born a thousand times, and it would daily be sung into my ears in a most lovely manner, if I were never to hear that he was born for me and was to be my very own? If the voice gives forth this pleasant sound, even if it be in homely phrase, my heart listens with joy for it is a lovely sound which penetrates the soul. If now there were anything else to be preached, the evangelical angel and the angelic evangelist would certainly have touched upon it.
Christ helps us so we in return help our neighbor, and all have enough.
If Christ has indeed become your own, and you have by such faith been cleansed through him and have received your inheritance without any personal merit, it follows that you will do good works by doing to your neighbor as Christ has done to you. Here good works are their own teacher. What are the good works of Christ? Is it not true that they are good because they have been done for your benefit, for God’s sake, who commanded him to do the works in your behalf? In this then Christ was obedient to the Father, in that he loved and served us.
Therefore since you have received enough and become rich, you have no other commandment than to serve Christ and render obedience to him. Direct your works that they may be of benefit to your neighbor, just as the works of Christ are of benefit to you. For this reason Jesus said at the Last Supper: “This is my commandment that you love one another; even as I have loved you.” Here it is seen that he loved us and did everything for our benefit, in order that we may do the same, not to him, for he needs it not, but to our neighbor. This is his commandment, and this is our obedience. Christ helps us so we in return help our neighbor, and all have enough.
Notice, then, how far off those are who expend their energies uniting good works with stone. Of what benefit is it to your neighbor if you build a church entirely out of gold? Of what benefit to him is the frequent ringing of great church bells? Of what benefit to him is the glitter and the ceremonies in the churches, the priests’ gowns, the sanctuary, the silver pictures and vessels? Of what benefit to him are the many candles and much incense? Of what benefit to him is the much chanting and mumbling, the singing of vigils and masses? Do you think that God wants to be served with the sound of bells, the smoke of candles, the glitter of gold and such fancies? He has commanded none of these, but if you see your neighbor going astray, sinning, or suffering in body or soul, you are to leave everything else and at once help him in every way in your power and if you can do no more, help him with words of comfort and prayer. Thus has Christ done to you and given you an example to follow.
Here Jesus does what he says, “And the poor have good tidings preached to them,” and “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 11:5; 5:3). Here are no learned, no rich, no mighty ones, for such people do not as a rule accept the Gospel. The Gospel is a heavenly treasure, which will not tolerate any other treasure, and will not agree with any earthly guest in the heart. Therefore whoever loves the one must let go the other, as Christ says, “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24).
This is shown by the shepherds in that they were in the field, under the canopy of heaven, and not in houses, showing that they do not hold fast and cling to temporal things. And besides being in the fields by night, they are despised by and unknown to the world which sleeps in the night, and by day delights so to walk that it may be noticed; but the poor shepherds go about their work at night. They represent all the lowly who live on earth, often despised and unnoticed, who dwell only under the protection of heaven; they eagerly desire the Gospel.
The Gospel is a heavenly treasure, which will not tolerate any other treasure.
That there were shepherds means that no one is to hear the Gospel for himself alone, but everyone is to tell it to others who are not acquainted with it. For he who believes for himself has enough and should endeavor to bring others to such faith and knowledge, so that one may be a shepherd of the other, to wait upon and lead him into the pasture of the Gospel in this world, during the nighttime of this earthly life. At first the shepherds were sore afraid because of the angel; for human nature is shocked when it first hears in the Gospel that all our works are nothing and are condemned before God, for it does not easily give up its prejudices and presumptions.
Therefore let us beware of all teaching that does not set forth Christ. What more would you know? What more do you need, if indeed you know Christ, as above set forth, if you walk by faith in God, and by love to your neighbor, doing to them as Christ has done to you? This is indeed the whole Scripture in its briefest form, that no more words or books are necessary, but only life and action.
Let everyone examine himself in the light of the Gospel and see how far he is from Christ, what is the character of his faith and love. There are many who are enkindled with dreamy devotion, and when they hear of such poverty of Christ, they are almost angry with the citizens of Bethlehem. They denounce their blindness and ingratitude, and think that if they had been there, they would have shown the Lord and his mother a more kindly service, and would not have permitted them to be treated so miserably. But they do not look by their side to see how many of their fellow humans need their help, and which they ignore in their misery. Who is there upon earth that has no poor, miserable, sick, erring ones around him? Why does he not exercise his love to those? Why does he not do to them as Christ has done to him?
Source: “Sermon for Christmas Day; Luke 2:1–14” in The Sermons of Martin Luther(Lutherans in All Lands Press, 1906).
v1,2 Envy not sinners. And let not a desire ever come into thy mind, Oh that I could shake off restraints! Pr 24:3-6. Piety and prudence in outward affairs, both go together to complete a wise man. By knowledge the soul is filled with the graces and comforts of the spirit, those precious and pleasant riches. The spirit is strengthened for the spiritual work and the spiritual warfare, by true wisdom. Pr 24:7-9. A weak man thinks wisdom is too high for him, therefore he will take no pains for it. It is bad to do evil, but worse to devise it. Even the first risings of sin in the heart are sin, and must be repented of. Those that strive to make others hateful, make themselves so. Pr 24:10. Under troubles we are apt to despair of relief. But be of good courage, and God shall strengthen thy heart. Pr 24:11-12. If a man know that his neighbour is in danger by any unjust proceeding, he is bound to do all in his power to deliver him. And what is it to suffer immortal souls to perish, when our persuasions and example may be the means of preventing it? Pr 24:13-14. We are quickened to the study of wisdom by considering both the pleasure and the profit of it. All men relish things that are sweet to the palate; but many have no relish for the things that are sweet to the purified soul, and that make us wise unto salvation. Pr 24:15-16. The sincere soul falls as a traveller may do, by stumbling at some stone in his path; but gets up, and goes on his way with more care and speed. This is rather to be understood of falls into affliction, than falls into actual sin. Pr 24:17-18. The pleasure we are apt to take in the troubles of an enemy is forbidden. Pr 24:19-20. Envy not the wicked their prosperity; be sure there is no true happiness in it. Pr 24:21-22. The godly in the land, will be quiet in the land. There may be cause to change for the better, but have nothing to do with them that are given change. Pr 24:23-26. The wisdom God giveth, renders a man fit for his station. Every one who finds the benefit of the right answer, will be attached to him that gave it. Pr 24:27. We must prefer necessaries before conveniences, and not go in debt. Pr 24:28-29. There are three defaults in a witness pointed out. Pr 24:30-34. See what a blessing the husbandman’s calling is, and what a wilderness this earth would be without it. See what great difference there is in the management even of worldly affairs. Sloth and self-indulgence are the bane of all good. When we see fields overgrown with thorns and thistles, and the fences broken down, we see an emblem of the far more deplorable state of many souls. Every vile affection grows in men’s hearts; yet they compose themselves to sleep. Let us show wisdom by doubling our diligence in every good thing.
February 24: The Day of Atonement
Leviticus 15–16; John 9:1–12; Song of Solomon 7:5–9
When it comes to the cost of sin, the average person probably thinks in terms of “What can I get away with?” rather than “What does this cost me and other people emotionally?” These calculations aren’t made in terms of life and death, but that is literally the case when it comes to sin.
The Day of Atonement is a beautiful, though horrific, illustration of this. It takes three innocent animals to deal with the people’s sin: one to purify the high priest and his family, one to be a sin offering to Yahweh that purifies the place where He symbolically dwelt (the holy of holies), and one to be sent into the wilderness to remove the people’s transgressions (Lev 16:11, 15–16, 21–22).
After the blood of the first two animals is spilled on the Day of Atonement—demonstrating the purification of God’s people—the final goat demonstrates God’s desire to completely rid the people of their sin. “Aaron shall place his two hands on the living goat’s head, and he shall confess over it all the Israelites’ iniquities and all their transgressions for all their sins, and he shall put them on the goat’s head, and he shall send it away into the desert” (Lev 16:21).
The Day of Atonement symbolized God’s desire for His people: one day, sin would no longer stand between God and His children. Like the goat, Jesus lifts the people’s iniquities (Isa 53:12). He fulfills this prophecy, becoming the ultimate ransom; no other sacrifice is ever needed.
As the author of Hebrews says, “For the law appoints men as high priests who have weakness, but the statement of the oath, after the law, appoints a Son, who is made perfect forever” (Heb 7:28). He then goes onto say, “And every priest stands every day serving and offering the same sacrifices many times, which are never able to take away sins. But this one, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb 10:11–12).
The price of sin may be great, but Christ has paid that price.
In what ways do you take Jesus’ sacrifice for granted? What can you do differently?
JOHN D. BARRY
Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
A Little Humor…..