Saturday, April 5, 2014


Liberation Theology in Practice                                   


 Luke 10:1-17          

Jesus sent his disciples into communities to prepare for his coming.

He sent them as lambs into the midst of wolves.

The disciples are few, but the harvest is plenty.


In 1990, I had the opportunity to serve in El Salvador as part of a delegation of the Marin Interfaith Task Force. In El Salvador, I met two Jesuit Priests, Padres Jon de Cortina and Jon Sobrino - professors, engineers, emigrants to El Salvador. They were men, who, along with their Jesuit brethren in El Salvador, were persecuted for decades for dedicating their lives to the practice of liberation theology.


These men of faith went among the poor, tending to their physical and spiritual needs. They lived and communed with them, fought for and with them, faced the same persecutions with them. They served God as they served the poor: fighting injustices, and building bridges, aqueducts, and houses. They also tended to the spiritual needs of the people in church, whether it served as a chapel or a place of hiding. I had the privilege to witness Padre Cortina's work as I lived in his parish. It was a parish of five hamlets in guerilla territory that the military tried to destroy through bombing, strafing, incursion, theft, rape, torture, kidnapping...  He always was with the people, in their faith, sorrow, agony, and happiness.


Padre Sobrino writes that Jesus' sense of mission, his sense of God's will for the world, shaped his interior and exterior life. In his words, a spirituality of liberation centers on continual internal conversion to the Reign of God, meaning "radical transformation of ourselves, it means thinking, feeling, living as Christ."1 Liberation Theology centers "on conversion to the neighbor, the oppressed person, the exploited social class, the despised race, the dominated country."2 It means reclaiming Jesus' humanity - how he lived and why he died. Jesus' strength and direction came from a clear sense of, and trust in, the will of God for the world. This clarity and this faithfulness in action - which I saw in Padres Cortina and Sobrino - came from a way of living which integrated contemplation, commitment, and action.


1 Jon Sobrino, Spirituality of Liberation: Toward Political Holiness (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1988), p.176  

2 Gutiérrez, The Theology of Liberation, p.204. 


Robin Holway

SFTS Administrator for the Office of the President