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Penance and Prayer
A sermon by St Oscar Romero
Not everyone… will have the honor of offering their blood physically or of being killed for the faith. But God does ask all those who believe in him to have the spirit of martyrdom. In other words, all of us should be ready to die for our faith even if the Lord does not grant us this honor. If we are so disposed, then when our time comes to give an accounting of our lives, we can say: “Lord, I was willing to give my life for you. And I have given it, because giving one’s life is not only being killed; it means living with the spirit of martyrdom and giving through duty, through silence, through prayer”. Indeed, it is in the honest fulfillment of duty and in the silence of daily life that we give our lives to God. We give our lives as does the mother who with no fuss, with the simplicity of motherly martyrdom, gives birth and gives her breast to her children and lovingly cares for them. This is what it means to give one’s life… May we all interpret for our lives what is now so necessary: surrendering our lives to holiness and being faithful to our obligations…
I tell you, sisters and brothers, it is wonderful to be Catholic at this time. Let us not be distressed but happy. Let us feel joyful in our spirit of courage and in our commitment to God… The less we place our trust in the things of earth, the greater will be God’s protection. “Now has come the victory of the Lord.” In God is our hope.
Penance was the word with which Christ began to preach the gospel, and it is also the substance of the church’s preaching: “Do penance! Be converted! Leave behind your evil ways!”… How I wish… that this Gospel word, spoken with tenderness…would reach those places where so many criminals are hidden, those dark corners of hell where so many calumnies are being plotted: “Be converted. Do not plant seeds of hatred! Do not kill more of our sisters and brothers! Do not spread more calumnies. Be converted, for these perverse roads lead to hell, and the Virgin wants you in her heaven.
… May prayer never fail in our hearts and on our lips. May we lift up our hearts to God, seeking favors, giving thanks, and asking for mercy. At this time I have great confidence… because there are many souls deep in prayer. As long as people are praying, I am not distressed. I tell the Lord in the intimacy of myMass, as all priests do, “Lord, look not on my sins, but on the faith of your church”. The faith of your church, Lord, is the old woman praying her rosary. The faith of our church is the sick man who feels useless but offers his suffering to God. The faith of the church is the father worried about supporting his family, honest and faithful to his home. The faith of the church is the religious who becomes holy in her own vocation. It is the priest, the seminarian, the child, and all those who live their vocation as church. The church is made up of all of us, and insofar as we pray and become holy, we are the power of the world, the force that descends from God, because the power of our prayer is derived from God.
…Let us become a church of penance and prayer… that this Blood of Christ “that is shed for you” may become truly a rain of peace, tranquility, harmony and reconciliation..
3 Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero. A Prophetic Bishop Speaks to His People: Vol. 1. Trans. Joseph Owens, S.J. Miami, FL: Convivium Press, 2015. 110-114.