CONFIRMATION SUNDAY 2010

September 29, 2010

“You Have Got To Be Kidding Me”

Luke 9:23-27

“As we follow Jesus, things will change — us, our relationships, our world. Change means losing things as they were, but if we’ve caught Jesus’ vision for how God is redeeming the world, we know that what we gain is of far greater value than the chains we lose.” Sarah Dylan Breuer

Luke 9:23-27 (MSG) 23 Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seatCI am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. 24 Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. 25 What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? 26 If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels. This isn’t, you realize, pie in the sky by and by. 27 Some who have taken their stand right here are going to see it happen, see with their own eyes the kingdom of God.”

 

One of my hero’s in the faith is a man named Oscar Romero.  Oscar was a Jesuit.  He was a scholar.  He was a thinker.  He was a man who for a time lived a life I admired, he was a man of prayers and books and writing.

In 1966, Romero became the Rector of the Seminary at San Miguel, El Salvador. Soon after, he became the editor of the archdiocesan newspaper Orientación, which became fairly conservative while he was editor, defending the traditional hierarchy in the Roman Catholic church.  The more progressive priests there did not appreciate his conservative nature and he wasn’t very popular.

Even though Romero was a man of faith, it took a catastrophe to change his life.  In 1977 he was appointed Archbishop of San Salvadore.  He was appointed to this position, in part, because the powers that be believed that he would not cause trouble.  But in March of that year, Romero’s good friend, Rutilio Grande, another Jesuit priest who had been working with the poor farmers to create ‘self-reliance groups’, was assassinated by government hit-squads.  Romero was transformed.  He said, “When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought, ‘If they have killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path'”.[1]

He spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture. As a result, Romero began to be noticed internationally. In February 1980, he was given an honorary doctorate by the Catholic University of Leuven. On his visit to Europe to receive this honor, he met Pope John Paul II and expressed his concerns at what was happening in his country. Romero argued that it was problematic to support the Salvadoran government because it legitimized terror and assassinations.

Romero was shot on March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass at a small chapel located in a hospital called “La Divina Providencia”, one day after a sermon where he had called on Salvadoran soldiers, as Christians, to obey God’s higher order and to stop carrying out the government’s repression and violations of basic human rights. According to an audio-recording of the Mass, he was shot while elevating the chalice at the end of the Eucharistic rite. When he was shot, his blood spilled over the altar along with the contents of the chalice.

I am sorry if all this sounds, well, melodramatic.  I tell his story over and over again, maybe not for your benefit, but for mine.  See there are many days when I would much rather be locked away in my study with the comforting companionship of my books and my prayers, than doing whatever sort of ministry awaits me out in the world.  That is what I want to do.  That is what I like to do.

Romero, is a hero to me because he made it clear that he did not want to do those things, the advocacy work for the poor, offering criticism of the government, and even criticism of the church, but that he was compelled.  Apparently there was something that God was calling him to do and be, even though there were many days, I am sure, when Romero muttered to himself, “you have got to be kidding me.”

In the text from Luke that the Confirmands have chosen to read today we have a difficult command from Jesus: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat. I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. 24 Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. 25 What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?” (Luke 9:23-25a MSG)

I am aware that probably none of us here this morning are asked to travel the path of Oscar Romero.  But the path to martyrdom is not why he’s one of my hero’s.  I relish the idea that he was able to follow in the way Christ lead him.  To me, sometimes, that seems like the hardest thing in the world.  Especially as I remember my own time in Junior High.

To be sure, denial of self, a course of action as if self did not exist, does not seem a pleasant procedure. But remember that it is not the true self, it is only the sinful self that we are called upon to give up on. The command laid down by our Lord, “Whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it” applies not merely to martyrdom with its reward in the day of judgment. It applies to every cross that we daily bear. Even now, if we are his true followers, Jesus comes to us in the glory of God and with his holy angels to give to us and strengthen in us that higher, heavenly life which needs no repression, no denial and with which trials of the present are not worthy to be compared.

Amen.


[1] Michael A. Hayes (Chaplain; Tombs, David (2001-04). Truth and memory: the Church and human rights in El Salvador and Guatemala. Gracewing Publishing. ISBN 9780852445242.

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