This week we celebrate the anniversary of the assassination of Roman Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador. On March 24, 1980 he was gunned down while saying Mass in a hospital chapel during that country’s civil war. Once a lightning-rod for criticism because of his support for liberation theology, Archbishop Romero today is seen as a champion of human rights.
President Barack Obama will visit his tomb during his visit to El Salvador this week, a gesture that some say is U.S. recognition of the slain human rights activist’s cause. Romero spoke out against repression by the U.S.-backed Salvadoran army during the Central American country’s 12-year civil war in which at least 75,000 people died. The government and leftist guerrillas reached a peace treaty in 1992. “It’s historic,” said Congresswoman Lorena Pena, a former guerrilla fighter with the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, a rebel group-turned-political party. “It’s a recognition of our pastor who was killed for fighting for justice, for democracy and human rights.” (Washington Post, March 19)
I often like to share the Prayer of Oscar Romero when I speak at events focused on Christian formation. To me, his words resonate the role that we have as Christian educators in our world today:
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
It is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
Of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about,
we plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation.
In realizing that. This enables us to do something,
And to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
But it is a beginning, a step along the way,
An opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
Between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.