Today, in the Vatican in Rome, Archbishop Romero is being canonized a saint. I did not know much about Romero until I was in the seminary and took a trip there. In the Diocese of Cleveland, we have a group of priests from our diocese that actually live there. We have a mission in El Salvador.
When I was in parish life, I would always take my parish to El Salvador. We would be there with the poor, serve them, minister with them, and pray with them. One of the most profound experiences for me on the trips was when we would visit the church where Romero was shot dead. You may not realize this, but Archbishop Romero is a martyr.
He was actually murdered during a mass that he was celebrating (he just got done preaching a homily) and was getting ready to celebrate the Eucharist. A pickup truck pulled up to the back of the church and shot him right in the heart. He died right there at the altar. There are pictures you can see online of the nuns coming with purificators to clean and wipe up his blood. I’ve stood behind that same altar as a priest and thought to myself, “Would I have had that same kind of courage like Romero had?”
The interesting thing is that Romero initially as a bishop did not have that kind of courage. Initially, you would not have thought he cared much for the poor. It was not until his best friend was assassinated. After his best friend was assassinated, everything changed for him. He began to love the poor and dedicate himself to the poor. It is interesting because he said that the first thing in El Salvador that died was the truth. He said that after the truth died all the crazy killings began to happen.
He started to do something very significant. He would record his Sunday homilies and they would go over the radio, and he would begin to speak the truth to people. After his homilies, he would read the news. He would just read the news as it was so the people could hear the news how it was manipulated or twisted.
Sounds kind of familiar to the age in which we live in. He would do that as an archbishop. He would just read the news so the people would hear the truth of what was happening. He would become this bishop for the poor.
People in El Salvador love Romero, and they also love Cleveland from all the times that we have gone there. I would love to take Walsh sometime to El Salvador. One of the lines that Romero said was (and this ties to the Gospel today) “Aspire not to have more but to be more.” Don’t aspire to have and to collect wealth and resources, but aspire to be more.
Then he would say, “We might be left without a radio station at some point.” He knew how bad things were getting, and he said, “God’s best microphone is Christ, and Christ’s best microphone is the Church, and the Church is each and every one of you. Let each one of you, in your own job, in your own vocation—nun, married person, bishop, priest, high school student, university student, day laborer, wage earner, market woman—one in your own place … live the faith intensely and feel that in your surroundings you are a true microphone of God our Lord.”
You are a true microphone of God our Lord. Part the reason I am here at Walsh is to help with the studio and to help all of us train to be evangelists – to use the media, to use social media, to use video, to use podcasts, and to really become a microphone for the world today.
Pope Francis’ letter, Gaudete Et Exsultate, means the joy, the joy of holiness, I am going to read a couple of passages, and I want you to think about your own life – and that right now you are called to holiness. Your holiness might not mean dying at an altar like Romero did. Your holiness will mean giving up tremendous things in life, but also receiving right now a hundred times fold in an eternal life to come.
I want you to think about your holiness as I begin to read these. What may be keeping you from holiness and how God is calling you to holiness? Remember too, God is always calling you with love. The disciple that was following Jesus and walked away from Jesus said that Jesus looked at him with love. It is the love that allows us to enter holiness. Right now he looks at you with love.
“The Lord asks everything of us, and in return he offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created to be. He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence.” “A Christian cannot think of his or her mission on earth without seeing it as his path of holiness, for “this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess 4:3). He wants you to become saints. Each saint has a mission, planned by the Father to reflect and embody, at a specific moment in history, a certain aspect of the Gospel.”
As I mentioned, your sainthood will not be like Romero’s or like mine, but in some way, God wants to use you as you are with the circumstance that you are in to create a saint for the world today.
We need saints in our world today. “In the end, it is Christ whose love is in us, for holiness is nothing other than charity fully lived.” So, it is living that love fully. “As a result, the measure of our holiness stems from the stature that Christ achieves in us, to the extent that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we model this in our whole life. Every saint is a message which the Holy Spirit takes from the riches of Jesus Christ and gives to his people.”
When you become that saint, that microphone for God, you are going to be radiating his holiness.
This is what we hear about the rich, young man. Jesus tells him to sell everything, give to the poor, and follow him. He walks away sad. Holiness does not lead to sadness. Holiness will lead to joy.
So, the giving of things that God is calling us to give away will lead to joy. The truth is, Pope Francis says, “You cannot grow in holiness without committing yourself body and soul and giving into this wonderful endeavor. Do not be afraid of this. Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, none of your vitality, none of your joy. On the contrary, you will become who the Father has created you to be, and you will be faithful to your deepest self.”
This Sunday, as we celebrate Archbishop Romero’s canonization, we celebrate that each and every one of us is called to be saints and can become saints. If only we allow Jesus to look at us with great joy and are willing to let go of everything that would keep us from following him. Knowing that when we do it is not like our life is going to be horrible.
We are not going to be miserable. We are not going to be left without the things that we want. No, it will be just the opposite. You are going to become the most joyful person God created you to be. You are going to be the most loving person God created you to be.
In the words of Leon Bloy, “When all is said and done, the only great tragedy in life is not to become a saint.”