Messy Saints


“God’s reign is already present on our earth in mystery. When the Lord comes, it will be brought to perfection. That is the hope that inspires Christians. We know that every effort to better society, especially when injustice and sin are so ingrained, is an effort that God blesses, that God wants, that God demands of us.”   (The Violence of Love, Oscar Romero, Orbis)

 Messy Saints

 My friend David Stiller and I were recounting memories of a visit we made to El Salvador in 1992. A fragile peace agreement had recently been signed after a devastating civil war. Tracer bullets popped and flared on the horizon while we visited the barrios of San Salvador. We were graciously welcomed by clients of a Salvadoran micro-credit agency.

 The move toward peace was triggered by the brutal assassinations of an archbishop and two nuns in a short space of time. The ruling class would use any means to stifle dissent – including assassinating Oscar Romero while he was leading a service of worship in a hospital chapel.

 Romero spoke the words I quote here moments before the gunman cut him down in 1980. He was a complex figure. He was part of the oppressive power structure but became a powerful advocate for the powerless. He was complicit in the oppression but gave his life to overthrow it.

 The Vatican has now declared Romero a saint but his people have known it since his life rang out for justice, hope and peace in a land that is still wracked by many of the same problems. His life shone in the darkness and he pursued forgiveness in the face of violence.

 A Prayer for Today

Loving God, you know our hearts are messy places but we do desire justice and peace in our world. Help us be people whose words, even if they aren’t dramatic last ones, are known to speak justice, love mercy and advocate for the powerless ….  For Jesus sake