On March 24, of 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador was celebrating mass in the chapel of a cancer hospital run by Carmelite nuns. In his homily he preached, "One must not love oneself so much, as to avoid getting involved in the risks of life that history demands of us, and those that fend off danger will lose their lives."
Moments later, Romero lay dead, the victim of an assassin's bullet. No one has ever been brought to justice for the crime.
The country of El Salvador had been engaged in a brutal
. The military had turned its guns on its own people. An average of 3,000 people a month were dying. Romero begged for international help, including a letter written to U.S. President Jimmy Carter, but his pleas went unheeded. So the Archbishop dared to confront the military, taking to preaching weekly homilies over the airwaves and pleading with them to stop the violence.
For Romero, the Church's option for the poor was not only a matter of pastoral priority; it was a defining characteristic of the Christian faith.
This year on March 24, in Washington D.C. and hundreds of other cities across the world, there will be marches and demonstrations to protest gun violence and mass shootings in United States' schools. The movement, named
March for Our Lives
, was organized by student survivors of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shootings in Parkland, Florida.
We have already witnessed student walkouts in schools in the past couple weeks inspired by the bravery of the Parkland survivors.
Like Romero, the students' pleas have fallen on mostly deaf ears. In a statement announcing the march, the students wrote: "Politicians are telling us that now is not the time to talk about guns.
March for Our Lives believes the time is now,"
The statistics are staggering. More than 30,000 Americans die each year from gun violence, an average that nearly equals the number of monthly deaths in the Salvadorian civil war. But our response is one of indifference, only seeming to pay attention when a mass shooting takes place. Lately, those have been happening more frequently. Is this the time we sit up and take notice?
Though there are no easy answers to abolishing or minimizing gun violence, the variety of tepid reactions from legislators reveal their aversion to work towards finding one. The simplest suggestion offered by lawmakers, arming teachers with guns, is not a solution.
"For all who take the sword will perish by the sword," Jesus once said. [Matthew 26:52]
As the youth prepare to march this Saturday, let us pray that our nation will observe with heightened awareness. These are not politicians. These are not clergy. These are CHILDREN!
Children imploring us to hear their pleas that we become better as a society at protecting them, so that they may learn in safety. Children asking for a better chance to grow into productive adults; instead of having their lives cut short by a hail of bullets.
But all the social statements in the world are not worth the paper on which they're written, if our hearts are not moved to obey God's command to live in peaceful community with one another. That's why God's Son was sent to die, so we would be free to live and care for one another, free from violence, hate, and fear.
Let anyone with ears listen!
Other than routine meetings in and around the office, I am not scheduled to be anywhere else this week. Though I enjoy the celebrations, I welcome an occasional week of respite from travel.
I want to send one final reminder to our rostered ministers of our annual Renewal of Vows and Blessing of Oil liturgy on Tuesday, March 27, at 10:30 a.m., at Trinity Lutheran Church in Kent.
I would encourage your attendance at this important liturgy in which we renew our vows of ordination, or consecration, and bless the oil which we'll use for anointing during the next year. Holy week is a busy time for pastors and deacons, which is why a few hours in worship, and the moments of collegial fellowship that follow, are vital to the support and nurturing of your ministry.
This week and always, may you be filled with the Spirit, that you agree with one another, live in
peace; and the
of love and
peace will be with you.
+Bishop Abraham Allende