Poster/photo of Romero found in the “Sala de los Martires” at the University of Central America (UCA).
“And for that reason, these three readings, that want to give Christian spirituality to this Sunday and to this week speak to us, precisely, of that destination of man that corresponds to the desire for God.” (47)
Before I get into dissecting this week’s sermon, which was not quite as theologically rich as last week’s (though still very powerful), I want to make a quick remark about Romero’s life. When Romero was named archbishop, the wealthy, elite, and military of El Salvador cheered because he was a quiet, bookish intellectual who was not going to involve himself in the brewing civil conflict. By choosing not to speak out against the structural injustices in his country, he was going to implicitly defend their use of wealth and power to oppress, kill, and destroy. Or so they thought.
But then his friend and fellow priest, Fr. Rutillio Grande, was killed for his liberating work with the poor, and Romero surprised everyone by becoming a defender of the poor, the oppressed, and the voiceless.
What’s my point? That Monseñor Romero could have stayed out of the mess and lived. He could have remained protected by the privilege and power that his position gave him. Instead, he chose not to remain safe. He chose to put his life on the line to defend others. He chose to speak out, despite the cost. Like Esther and Jesus and Bonhoeffer and so many heroes and saints that went before him, he relinquished the safety of his privilege in order to preach the Gospel, to tell the truth.
We have a lot to learn from him. #blacklivesmatter #icantbreathe
The Lord is Coming, Let Us Prepare the Way for Him
Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11
2 Peter 3:8-14
As usual, there is so much going on in this homily that it is difficult to condense. The quote above honestly sums it up quite nicely: Romero argues that these readings are about humanity’s desire (or craving, as he puts it) for God—and how we try to satisfy that craving by worshiping things that are not God. If I had to boil it down to three main themes, however, it would be the three outlined below.
Human beings and God have a natural desire for unity with one another, and only this union with God can truly filly us.
Quoting a Vatican II document, Romero states that, “The highest reason for human dignity consists in the vocation of man to the union with God.” Following from that, he argues that, “Man is only happy, and only a man that has this trust and that complete surrender to God possesses plentitude and truth and happiness.” (47) God and mankind have a “mutual attraction” towards one another because “God created us for Him” (47). As Saint Augustine wrote and Romero quotes here: “You created us for you and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
This is how Romero reads the passage from Isaiah: it is a poetic expression of every human being’s desperate longing to be with God, “the craving for God’s appearance, reclaiming the dignity of being an image of God” (47). Of course, it also represents the craving of an oppressed people—one that had lost the city and the temple where they believed their God literally resided—for the presence of God to return to them: “It was what Isaiah felt and wanted to express in this transformation of dryness to a garden…to express, in this way, the joy, the hope of a people that is returning from slavery, punishment, from oppression…” (48). 
Advent is about this longing for God to be with us, and for our longing to be with God, both personally and collectively.
If it is God that we truly long for, then we need to set aside our idols—particularly wealth and power—to follow the One True God.
“How sad is it that Christmas has become commercialized and has been profaned and we have not understood that Christmas is this longing of God to meet with man and from the man that he will not be happy while he does not meet with God!” (49)
Romero preached time and time again that the problems of his age (and really, every age) were rooted in idolatry: our tendency to value, prioritize, orient ourselves towards, and yes, worship, things that are not God. In this sermon, Romero is particularly concerned with the worship of money and material stuff over God and how that manifests during Christmastime; we deeply long for God, but we try to fill the spiritual hole in our hearts with things instead of Jesus. However, he does not hesitate to point out that power and violence are also idols that we worship in and over God:
“Dear brothers and sisters, who could put prophetic eloquence to my words to shake out the inertia of all of those who are as on their knees before the goods of the earth! Those that would like the gold, the money, the plantations, the power, the politics to be their eternal Gods! All of this is going to end!” (49)
In other words, worshiping the idols of money, power, and control of politics and land is an exercise in eschatological stupidity. These things will not last. Only God and the “satisfaction of having used [one’s gifts] to the service of the will of God” will endure (49).
God is already saving, and present in, human history.
“As someone said, everything is in knowing Christ, regardless of the stories, the miracles, his words; what is important is discovering his identity: God that has come to the history of Israel in this humble son of the Virgin of Nazareth.” (51)
Romero believes that the most important thing one can know about Christ, about Advent, about Christmas, is that God has become flesh and dwelt among us. More importantly, God came in the form of a humble child: a poor one, an oppressed one, one that was marked for death by the authorities of his own people. That is the story of God we need to remember. Furthermore, “The Gospel is not telling us the life of Christ; the Gospel is the same force, the same presence of Christ that has come to the world” (51). God is present in history through the incarnation, through (as discussed last week) the bodies and people that are poor and oppressed, and through the very words and language of the Gospel.
Of course, our finding and encountering God, both as a people and as individuals, depends on our behavior, our conduct, our path. “If [the path] is poorly taken, if it has become materialist, if it abounds in injustice, these are not the paths of God” (51). God is coming and has come, but God cannot be found on unjust and materialist paths. We must prepare the way of God by conforming everything to God’s will. Yes, God is already here, but to encounter God, we need to prepare the way for God in our lives, communities, and nations.
 N.B. If you’re a real Reformed theology nerd, like an ordained Presbyterian clergyperson, for example, you’re probably asking yourself whether you can in good conscience preach that human beings have a “natural desire for God,” what with the whole Total Depravity thing we believe in, and all. I think we can, as long as we acknowledge that even our “natural desire for God” has become corrupted by sin. I really can’t see Calvin or Augustine or Romero disagreeing with this later point (it seems right up Augustine’s alley, really…), but you can fight me on it, if you want to. :-D
 This is a common theme/modus operandi for Romero: he doesn’t see our internal spirituality (or sin) and our external, public, collective, structural spirituality (or sin) to be separate. Our longing for God as individuals and as a Christian pueblo are always linked, just like our personal and collective sins are always linked.