A fidelity to the Gospel above all

Anyone who has read about the Crucifixion and the horribly cruel and painful events leading up to it has to wonder why God would have willed such a terrible death for a son he so loved.

Apr 11, 2014

By Rhina Guidos
Anyone who has read about the Crucifixion and the horribly cruel and painful events leading up to it has to wonder why God would have willed such a terrible death for a son he so loved.

I remember watching the movie The Passion of the Christ and being horrified at the depiction of Christ's very real suffering. His suffering and death wasn’t something God willed, but something that happened as a consequence of him being faithful to the Gospel values, of proclaiming the kingdom of God to anyone who would listen.

I think about the suffering and the killing of those who have followed in Jesus’ footsteps. Jesus was their model in life. Proclaiming the kingdom by caring for the poor, feeding them, clothing them and defending their dignity in the days Christ walked among us wasn’t easy, nor is it easy now.

The closest I’ve ever come to seeing this in life is when the archbishop of our diocese in my native country of El Salvador was assassinated. In 1979, war erupted in El Salvador over unfair economic conditions for the poor.

Trying to quell a wave of protests and increasing distrust and dissatisfaction among the country’s population, government forces began to torture and kill civilians. As the violence increased, Archbishop Oscar Romero, of our diocese of San Salvador, spoke up.

What he said was no different from anything Jesus said or would have espoused: The archbishop denounced violence and killing, and he advocated for the poor, for providing fair economic conditions for all; he said if he was going to advocate for violence, it would be for the “violence of love, which left Christ nailed to a cross, the violence that we must each do to ourselves to overcome our selfishness and such cruel inequalities among us.”

It’s that “violence of love” for us, in defence of us, in defence of the least among us, that led to Archbishop Romero’s assassination, much like Christ.

In 1980, Jorge Palencia wrote a song in Spanish about Archbishop Romero’s assassination. The song is called El Profeta, or The Prophet, and its refrain always pops in my head during Easter: “They can kill the prophet but not his voice of justice.”

The beauty of the song, for me, is that I don’t so much think of Archbishop Romero (who inspired it) when I hear the lyrics, but I think of a lot about Christ, who inspired Archbishop Romero.

The song begins: “In this land of hunger, I saw a traveller, humble and meek, but a valiant prophet who confronted the tyrants, accusing them of killing their brother to defend the rich.”

The song mentions Archbishop Romero “with the Gospel in his hand” and says his “sin” was “defending the peasants,” and “wanting those who work to eat.”

The beauty of the Gospel is that it inspired this “violence of love” so long ago. It continues to inspire us today in those who feed the hungry, in those who help the disadvantaged procure work or housing. It inspires our Pope Francis who often is relentless in his defence and advocacy of the least among us.

Though we may be pained by what Christ endured, or followers like Archbishop Romero endured, we have to think about the beauty of this message and the beauty of this great love for humanity that leads some to lay down their lives in fidelity and love.

Archbishop Romero, like many who have been killed over the values we sometimes take for granted, knew the price. God doesn’t will that these servants die in a horrible manner.

He wills that they, and that all of us, be loyal followers into the kingdom that welcomes those who go to great lengths, to risk safety and even life for the love of others .

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