Every time I read the words of Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador who was murdered in 1980 while celebrating mass, I’m reminded of how the preoccupations of North American Christianity (church growth, say, or the big one: sex) can seem so absurd. Romero’s powerful work and witness chastise our worst inclinations and expose the triviality of many of our obsessions. Yet there is always grace and gentleness in the truth he speaks. The excerpts below come from a collection of his writings called The Violence of Love.

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A church that doesn’t provoke any crises,
A gospel that doesn’t unsettle,
a word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin,
a word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin
of the society in which it is being proclaimed–
what gospel is that?
Very nice, pious considerations
that don’t bother anyone,
that’s the way many would like preaching to be.
Those preachers who avoid every thorny matter
so as not to be harrassed,
so as not to have conflicts and difficulties,
do not light up the world they live in.
They don’t have Peter’s courage, who told that crowd
where the bloodstained hands still were
that had killed Christ,
“You killed him!”
Even though the charge could cost him his life as well
he made it.
The gospel is courageous,
it’s the good news
of him who came to take away the world’s sins.
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Nothing is so important to the church as human life,
as the human person,
above all, the person of the poor and the oppressed.
Besides being human beings,
they are also divine beings,
since Jesus said that whatever is done to them
he takes as done to him.
That bloodshed, those deaths,
are beyond all politics.
They touch the very heart of God.
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Even when they call us mad,
when they call us subversives and communists
and all the epithets they put on us,
we know that we only preach
the subversive witness of the Beatitudes
which have turned everything upside down
to proclaim blessed the poor,
blessed the thirsting for justice,
blessed the suffering
.

The Violence of Love, 44-45, 200, 48