Oscar Romero was like the grain of wheat Jesus speaks about in today’s gospel: “unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit.” Jesus is surrendering to the mission, given by the Father to bring salvation to the world. In dying to ourselves, like a tiny grain of wheat, our lives produce the fruit of love, new life, relationships, inspirations for others, the work of justice, forming our children, living out the beatitudes.
When I went to El Salvador with Catholic Relief Service, we went on pilgrimage to the places of Romero’s life, the high point being the hospital chapel in which he was violently assassinated while saying Mass. The blood stained vestments, the clergy shirt he wore with the one bullet hole clearly seen, the rest of his clothes bloodied by the violence.
Oscar Romero surrendered his life to the outcome of living the gospel in a political reality of extreme injustice, rooted in a vile and malicious government trying to protect its power and the wealth of a few land owners. The fruit he produced lives to this day and will live into eternity.
Seeing where the act took place and his clothes saturated with blood brought home the reality of his witness. His life was truly immersed in the love of Christ and his life giving suffering on the Cross. In the crucifixion of Christ is the life giving martyrdom of Oscar Romero. As Jeremiah says in the first reading so poignantly, God has written his Law, not on tablets of stone, but IN the human heart.... in EVERY heart of EVERY human being, no exceptions!!!
That Law is written in YOUR heart and you are called to “lose yourself” to die to yourself in your own unique life story, which means the martyrdom will not be the “red” of blood but the “white” martyrdom of everyday, ordinary sacrifice and suffering: working through difficult relationships, giving your life for children and grandchildren, working in your career in an honest way, volunteering to reach out to those who are poor or lonely or sick.
Romero gave the ultimate sacrifice by shedding his blood and he so feared that moment when the assassin entered that chapel with the rifle. He had to have seen it unfolding before his eyes as he stood behind the altar at the Presentation of the Gifts. That shooter knew what he was doing and was an “expert” at making certain that bullet hit the center of his heart, the place where the Law of God is written. The Law of a love unto death.
How is your life a “dying to self?”