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Martha Zechmeister "The Martyred People Today and the Hope they Bring Us"

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May 19, 2015

REFLECTION - Monseñor Romero, like Rutilio Grande, his predecessor, and Ignacio Ellacuría, his follower and reflective echo, had, in their historic moments, in the years before and after the Salvadoran civil war, the prophetic charism and the genius to give voice to the suffering of the people. The people, sacrificed at that time to the idol of wealth, cut down in their struggle for a life of dignity, exposed to cruel and barbaric violence, expelled from their homes and their land, livingina nightmare of torture, of overnight escapes and separation from their loved ones. This same people understood, in an instinctive and unambiguous way: Rutilio, Monseñor Romero, and Ellacuría are talking about us, about the reality that we suffer on a daily basis in our flesh.We are “the crucified people,” we are “the martyred people.”And not only arethey talking about us, but they also dignify us and apply to us the ultimate kind of hope: You all are the body of Christ, crucified in history! You all are the martyred flesh – like the flesh of the poor guy from Nazareth, in which God makes God-self present in this world shaped by sin.

Rutilio Grande, Monseñor Romero and Ignacio Ellacuría interrupted with a new way of announcing the Gospel and denouncing sin. This new way of speaking, categorically rejecting theological and pastoral “docetism,”verbage without flesh and empty of true reality.In this new language, “the living and effective Word of God, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb 4:12) is made incarnate. This Word creates reality; it is “liberating and saving, like the language of Jesus himself.”

Rutilio Grande, Monseñor Romero and Ignacio Ellacuría had a brilliant gift of giving words to the reality, to the suffering of the people, but it is not only this that gives their language salvific and hope-giving power that speaks directly to the hearts of the most vulnerable and unprotected, but rather the firm and absolute coherence of their lives. This coherence coated the seal of their martyrdom, which was sealed with their blood.

Remembering the martyrs, and celebrating them, is dangerous. It obliges us, like them, to let ourselves be touched in our consciences, by the anguish and the martyrdoms that the victims suffer today; it obliges us to risk what seems like self-destructive insanity: to throw ourselves, with all of our existence, against this machinery that brutally crushes the vulnerable. To remember the body and blood of the martyrs, among them, the proto-martyr Jesus of Nazareth, not not allow for any kind of diet-celebration. It either initiates us into following them, or it is a lie, and carries with it “its own judgment” (cf. 1 Cor 11:29).

Making the legacy of the martyrs productive and doing theology in a way that is faithful to their inheritance, does not allow for any kind of sterile or mechanical repetition. One can be a specialist in the thought of Ellacuría, reading and analyzing every last word,and still betray him. Studying the thought of martyrs in depth is a task of the utmost importance that demands all of our intellectual rigor.But it can never be an end in itself, a merely academic task. To be faithful to their legacy, we are obliged to a patient exercise of contempla-tion, of paying close attention to the reality that the crucified people live today. If we do it well, it hurts. In good Salvadoran – and Austrian – slang, it hurts us to the marrow of our bones. Only from such pain can a new theological and pastoral word be born, a word that is effective and hope-giving, faithful to the inheritance of the martyrs.

We are tired of responding to the objection that the thought of the martyrs has lost validity and belongs to a past era because the “paradigm”has shifted.But yes, we are conscious that their creativity prevents us from treating them as museum objects. Rather to the contrary, it commits us even more to suing all of our creativity. Yes, it’s true, we have to “update” the inheritance of the martyrs.However: What does it mean to “update”? As Ignacio Ellacuría says: “To update something doesn’t mean, primarily, to bring it up to date in the same way that this expression might be fashionable these days. To update it means, rather, to give it present-day reality…”

I invite you all to the following exercise: to give present-day reality to the inheritance of the martyrs...


"The Martyred People Today and the Hope they Bring Us"

Martha Zechmeister

Talk to the Promoters JPIC last April 29, 2015




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