Living with humility
One week ago, Pope Francis presented to the Church seven new witnesses to the
Christian faith, some examples of holiness which can inspire our own lives and
strengthen our faith. Seven martyrs of the last decades.
Today, I’d like to focus on the life and witness of Saint Oscar Romero, Archbishop
of San Salvador and martyr for Christ’s people.
At the time of great suffering and persecution within San Salvador country, a few
people dared to address the public opinion and the government about the terrible
facts which occurred. Some clerics dared to do so, and were violently repressed
and reduced to silence. People suffered of oppression from both the State and the
army, led by politicians and wealthy people in position of authority.
When Oscar Romero became archbishop, he was perceived as a conservative
bishop and felt rather not concerned by the life of the poor, thinking that the
“theology of the liberation” was the leitmotiv of the activism around poverty.
After one of his close friends has been murdered, a priest, because of his ministry
and defence of the speechless and most marginalised, he opened his eyes and
started to advocate vividly for the oppressed of the country, the most vulnerable,
outing the government and the army about their use of torture and assassination.
He lived as he preached, convinced that God spoke through him to deliver a
message of hope and deliverance to the people of his country.
On 1980, as he was celebrating Mass on hospital’s chapel, he has been killed.
He never intended to give his life for sure, but he did. He died as he lived,
defending the poor and standing against misuse of ambition and power in his
The common point we see between Saint Oscar and our Lord Jesus is that they
did not choose to be served but to serve. They made themselves servants of others
instead of using their own power to submit people to their own interests.
The merciful God, creator of heaven and earth, decided to send his Son to be a
servant, enduring suffering for the love of his neighbours, his companions and
those who have misuse of power.
The epistle to the Hebrews tells us that after the pain he endured, the suffering he
experienced and saw all around him, Jesus became for us the source of eternal
salvation, that through his wounds we are healed and saved.
Jesus was obedient, compassionate with others. He learned how to deal with
suffering and transfigured it. He didn’t pretend to bring war to the Roman Empire,
or restore the monarchy over Israel and start a new dynasty. What he did instead
was simple: to live alongside us, to bear our sins, to suffer with us, to give us an
example of how to live together as a reconciled people. We too struggle with many
things in our daily lives, such as children education, money, taxes, illness, job,
Jesus truly understands what we live, how our daily lives are about. He suffered
for us, broke down any bad ambitions we can bear in order to show us the way.
The way of love.
The way of radical change.
The way of salvation.
The way of restored humanity.
In today’s gospel, we can see a perfect example of this reversal of the world. We
see James and John having the ambition to sit with Jesus in his kingdom,
meanwhile they have no idea what his kingdom is about. They probably thought
about a land, a country where Jesus will be crowned king, the almighty warrior
and defender of the Jews, and his intimate friends could become his new ministers
or occupying any high position of authority. This is how the world works now,
but it’s not how Jesus, when he created the world, intended it to be.
The answer Jesus gives is powerful: “But it is not so among you; but whoever
wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to
be first among you must be slave of all.”
There is a great and huge difference between what Jesus says and the context in
which he was living. Then, everyone would agree that to be in a position of
authority means to have power over the lives of people at that time; that you could
do what you wanted, and the high priest in the Temple of Jerusalem wasn’t an
The difference with Jesus is that he learned through his own life how to live
alongside people, to know them, to love them, even to die for them. He
demonstrated the true nature of power, as someone giving his life for his friends.
The relationship between the master and the slave is reversed. It’s no longer the
master who is superior to the slave, neither the slave superior to the master, but
both living in harmony, in love for one another, in mutual service.
We all know about it is to work in a team with people who don’t listen to us, who
don’t care of us, people who are ambitious beyond imagination. We know what it
is to be disconnected with people, when we are not considered, when we are
threatened by job expectations, or society, or school. We know what it means
when our human dignity is sacked.
This emptiness of authoritative power, the refusal of any personal ambition which
breaks down the life of others. This desire to love our neighbour and to do good
for him or her is the new way that Jesus shows us, our great High Priest.
It’s no longer question of having the right inheritance, or belonging to the most
righteous group of people, or having more power and authority than other people.
Jesus opens us to the kingdom of God in showing that our lives can be lived in
relationship both with him and one another. We are no longer under the
dictatorship of individualism, where only our sacrifice on the altar of the Temple
is important, where only our own interests are important. We are living under the
power of the grace of God.
Christ came to inaugurate a new path of life, a path where power and greatness
are not the most important. Christ came to fulfil the words of Mary in her
Magnificat: to send the rich away empty and to lift up the lowly. From now on,
we are encouraged to be no longer governed by a greedy sense of ambition or
earthly reward. Rather, we are governed by the humility that Jesus gives to each
of us. For it is in serving that we can truly find ourselves, in becoming a little one
that we can truly reach heaven here on earth.
The true disciple is this person who seeks more to stay in the presence of Jesus
than asking for more power to rule others. Saint Oscar Romero is such kind of
person, as Pope Francis, who used to address people about the marginalised and
the oppressed, to listen to their witnesses and how to make their lives better.
Our journey of faith means to give from ourselves and to submit to the will of
God in anything, to the glory of his Name. As we look to Jesus, we see that he
spent much of his time being with people, talking with them, loving them more
It is in giving ourselves that we find ourselves, it is in serving than we are served.
The true purpose of the Christian life is not the question of James and John, but
rather the example and life of Francis of Assisi, who made himself the smallest of
Listening to our neighbours.
Suffering and rejoicing alongside them.
This is the way.
Brothers and sisters, as we come to meet our neighbour, let us open our hearts
with confidence and joy, so that we may be ready to give. Let us put away all
desires of power and envy, for the Son of Man came to serve us in order to show
us how to live.
Let’s give as we have received from the Lord Jesus, our great High Priest, who is
closer to us than our breathing.
Let us give thanks and be joyful.
you called your servant Oscar Romero
to be a voice for the voiceless poor,
and to give his life as a seed of freedom and a sign of hope:
inspired by his sacrifice and the example of the martyrs of El Salvador,
we may without fear or favour witness to your Word who abides,
your Word who is Life, even Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be praise and glory now and for ever.