This week marks the 34th anniversary of the martyrdom/assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. I find that the more I read and learn about horrific wars, massacres, and violence in places like El Salvador, Colombia, Syria, Venezuela, the Middle East, and the many other places both in the news and those suffering silently beyond the media spotlight, the more I doubt myself. I doubt that I can have any affect on any of it. I feel hopeless some days, and frustrated at the complacency of the people around me. I also feel a great sense of sadness and shame for being a citizen of a nation in the grip of a culture of violence and whose government is obsessed with war: The United States of America.
In a post by Pax Christi, this quote by Romero hits home for me:
“There is no doubt whatsoever that here there is no room for neutrality. We are either at the service of the life of Salvadorans or we are accomplices in their death. And it is here that we are faced with the most fundamental reality of the historical mediation of faith: either we believe in a God of life or we serve the idols of death.”
There is no room for “neutrality.” I like Paul’s description of the church as the “body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12-31), and I believe we are all indeed parts of the one body, but with different gifts and functions, yet I struggle within myself on what God has planned for me. I have been blessed with many gifts, but I still struggle with how best to use them. As Paul continues in 1 Cor. 13 (the famous “love is patient, love is kind” discourse), I do not want to be just another “resounding gong,” and yet, so often, I feel like a voice in the wilderness that no one hears. So how can I help end violence & injustice in the world? How can I help & be of service to my brothers & sisters in need?
Perhaps it all boils down to that pesky thing we call “free-will.” What do I choose for myself? If, as Romero put it, I believe in a “God of life” (and I do!), then I choose life. I choose life, love, and compassion! I know that I can only change myself, and I think that’s how nonviolent leaders like Romero help bring about systemic changes. By changing my response to the “idols of death,” I pray that my life may be an affirmation of nonviolence and love, too. As Paul’s letter to the Corinthians sums it up, “So faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).