Óscar Romero served as Archbishop of San Salvador in the late 1970s. While in this position, he was quick to speak out against the poverty and social injustices that were happening in his country (not to mention the torture and assassinations). In 1980, while offering Mass,
Romero was assassinated. His funeral, one week later, was attended by 250,000 people from around the world. Liberation Theology points to the need for "social concern
for the poor and the political liberation for oppressed peoples." (Dictionary of Historical Terms) Pope Francis said of Romero, "His ministry was distinguished by his particular attention to the most poor and marginalized." Romero, according to his biographer, "was not interested
in liberation theology" but did follow Catholic teachings on liberation, and a preferential option for the poor. (Wikipedia) Romero's belief was that when our interiors are changed, our desire for social revolution ensues.
I have been thinking about this notion of Liberation Theology quite a bit these last weeks. As I watch the news, and observe the ways that the poor and powerless are dismissed and mistreated, I wonder how we might be God's hands, feet, and voice.
The theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez wrote a book in 1971 called A Theology of Liberation, which gave the movement its name. He also coined the phrase "preferential option for the poor", which became a liberation theology slogan. Drawing on how scriptures address the poor, Gutiérrez asserts that God is shown to have a preference for those people who are
"insignificant", "unimportant", "needy", "despised", and "defenseless". (Wikipedia)
Liberation theology is seen by some as an effort to return to the gospel of the early church, where Christians were seeking to live the message of Jesus: caring for the oppressed, sick, and marginalized. Those Christians of the early church started by caring for each other, the first place where they could live out their faith.
As we read in Acts 2, "All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people."
Our task as a church is to care: To care for ourselves and our closest relationships, to care for one another, to care for others, and to care for our world. In order to do this, we come together to worship, pray, learn, support, serve, and be in community - so that we might be
empowered to live as we are called.
Oscar Romero once said, "Let us not forget: we are a pilgrim church, subject to misunderstanding, to persecution, but a church that walks serene, because it bears the force of love."
May we be a church that helps one another to step into the places where we can be the force and face of God.