CHRIST REVEALS HIS GLORY IN THE HAPPINESS OF HUMANKIND
Second Sunday of Ordinary Time
January 20, 1980
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
Today in the Word of God we still see the splendor of the Epiphany, echoes of the mystery of Christmas when God enters our history and reveals himself.
--- God wants to be known by people … three signs of the Epiphany: the Magi, baptism and the first miracle
During these Sundays the Catholic liturgy celebrates three gospel events as manifestations of Christ’s glory. The first event we celebrated on January 6th: the Magi from the East are led by a star and find Jesus whom they adore. The second event we celebrated last Sunday, namely, the baptism of Jesus. On that occasion the heavens opened and a voice proclaimed: You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased (Luke 3:22). The third event we celebrate today as Saint John presents Jesus performing his first miracle, the first sign that reveals Jesus’ glory and strengthens the faith of the disciples. Here we also find the objective of our gathering together today: to believe more deeply in Jesus, to know him more profoundly so that today might be the occasion of a new epiphany of our own faith.
--- The readings are an invitation to joy
Today, like every epiphany, is an invitation to rejoice. The tone of today’s readings is one of happiness and joy. It can almost sound sarcastic to proclaim such words when we, in El Salvador, experience so much affliction and fear and live with so many different forms of psychosis. Nevertheless, I believe that no other call is more important for our country, for the people of El Salvador, than the call of this morning’s liturgy: a call to the joy of optimism.
--- The situation of the first reading: a prophet breaks the depressing silence of God
Let us situate ourselves in the environment of Jerusalem. After the frightening depression of years during which it appeared that God was no longer speaking with them, the people were returning from exile. As they returned to Jerusalem they found their country destroyed, in ruins, as if death had prevailed over everything. Nonetheless, in this silence, in the midst of the ruins and depression and psychosis, the prophet raises his voice: For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her victory like a burning torch. Nations shall behold your vindication and all kings your glory (Isaiah 62:1).
--- If one has faith in God …
God has been with us even in our tribulations and now, when this time of affliction has passed, the dawning of joy will break forth. This is the optimism of faith. We are not sad. Today the Church wants to assure us of the fact that God journeys with us. The Nativity is a real event. God has entered history and wants to make himself known and thus awaken faith in his followers.
--- Jesus at the wedding feast where an unsolvable problem arises
Notice how Mary experiences the situation of unsolvable problems such as we experience in our country: they have no wine and people will be embarrassed as the feast is prolonged. The joy that should be present in this situation will be turned into sadness. Therefore, like Mary in the midst of insoluble problems, let us look toward Jesus and experience his presence as expressed in the beginning of today’s gospel: Jesus and his disciples were there and his mother was also with him (an adaptation of John 2:1-2).
I therefore entitle this morning’s reflection on this new epiphany: Christ reveals his glory in the joy of women and men. To the degree that people are happy, so too will people reveal the glory of Christ. As people discover the paths of peace and justice, fraternity and love, so too Christ is glorified. Christ is involved in history and his presence is reflected in history by the joy and trust of people. Therefore, I will develop the following three points: 1) Salvation is revealed in the sign of a wedding feast, 2) Mary, the figure of the Church rich in charisms and powers in interceding before God, 3) Through faith we share in the joy of God’s glory.
a) Saint John writes what is referred to as the gospel of signs
For Saint John the miracles that he relates in his gospel are not simply stories of the miracle-worker or stories of mercy for those who suffer. For Saint John there is something more profound about these miracles and for this reason his gospel is called the gospel of signs.
--- The miracles are signs that reveal the mystery of Jesus
As Saint John concludes the story of the wedding feast at Cana he says: Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs (John 2:11). For Saint John signs in the gospel stories are revelations of the personality and the mission that Jesus brings to the world. Seven signs are highlighted in the gospel of Saint John and in each one of these Saint John is interested in discovering a new characteristic of the personality of the mystery of Christ.
--- The foreshadowing of his hour and the messianic content of his glorification (death and resurrection)
We are not going to focus today on the seven signs but just on this one, the first sign, the sign that unites him with his hour: My hour has not yet come (John 2:4). The hour of Jesus is an expression that is close to his heart. His hour refers to the time when he will be nailed to the cross in order to redeem the world, the time when he will be raised by God to new life. Suffering is not separated from glory: the cross and the Passover are signs of his hour. Chronologically the hour had not yet arrived when Mary makes her request, but he acts anyway: What I am going to do foreshadows and anticipates my hour. I am going to reveal my glory which will be consummated on the day when I die on the cross and am raised by the Father. My miracles explain the meaning of my death and resurrection. After this glorification you, Mary, collaborator in this act of redemption, will have a very active and fertile role. Now we are going to begin this hour, anticipate it, but it will be accomplished when you put to use all the power of your intercession, your maternal role in the history of humankind (an adaptation of John 2:4-5)
--- The miracle of the wine has a rich content
For Jesus, the miracle of the wine is a sign that contains a redeeming, messianic content. What is the meaning of this sign?
In the first place this sign reveals that Jesus has a creative power.
The first sign shows that Jesus has power over the elements of creation in the same way as the One who said: Let there be water (Genesis 1:9). Jesus says: Let the water be changed into wine (an adaptation of John 2:6). Jesus can transform nature. He is a creator and in human flesh manifests the glory of a creator.
--- The miracle reveals a presence that can resolve that which is humanly impossible
The miracle of the wine reveals another reality, a presence that is able to resolve all problems. The anguish of Mary expresses the anguish of humanity: they have no wine (John 2:3). We could change this phrase to reflect so many other human needs: We have no bread! We cannot find the path for the journey of our country! We see anguish all around us! Violence, disorder! But like Mary, anguish is filled with hope because she experiences her Son as one who is powerful, as one who can resolve that which, humanly speaking, cannot be resolved. It is enough for her to say: They have no wine (John 2:3). As she communicates this need with the confidence of faith she believes that a miracle will be performed.
If only the people of El Salvador knew how to speak to Jesus with the same confidence as Mary, to speak about the anguish of this hour and to do so without any feelings of pessimism or desperation, to speak with confidence to One who is all-powerful, who is absolute: You can do all things. I simply place before you our need and I know that you will do what has to be done. Mary spoke with great confidence and was so sure of a positive response despite what appears to be a negative response that she said to the servers: Do whatever he tells you (John 2:5).
The glory of God is revealed when the headwaiter comes forth and tastes the new wine. He speaks to the bridegroom and says: Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now (John 2:10). Very tasteful wine! Made by the hands of Jesus! This is testimony of his power to resolve unsolvable problems and resolve them in a better way than we ourselves could ever imagine.
--- The miracle reveals the transformation of a Jewish rite (water jars, purification) into a Christian form of worship (wine, the presence of Jesus)
What else is revealed in this sign? It reveals a transformation. It is not only the water that is changed into wine. For Saint John there is always something more profound in the sign and one must search for this deeper meaning. The gospel of Saint John cannot simply be read, rather it has to be analyzed and as one acquires theological knowledge one begins to understand the theological content that is contained in the gospel of Saint John.
In the sign of the water, we see that this refers to the content of the water jars that the Jews used for purification and without a doubt Saint John is referring to all the Jewish ritual rites … thus the ancient law gives way to the wine that will become the sign of Christian worship. The sign of our Eucharist is the bread and the wine. The wine is the sign of a religion that is made more perfect by the presence of God among us. We are able to find all of this and much more in the sign of the transformation of the water into wine.
--- The environment of the wedding reveals the joy and richness of messianic salvation
But there is another meaning in this sign that we should not lose sight of, namely, the context in which John desires to relate the manifestation of the first sign of Jesus, the context of a wedding feast. In this John reveals the joy that is found in God’s glory. Thus with the joy of a bridegroom who commits himself to his bride --- as we are told in the first reading --- so too God desires that women and men will find happiness on this earth, will find joy in living, joy in loving, joy in sharing, and joy in celebrating a feast. God is not a God of sadness but a God of celebration and feasts, a God of happiness. Therefore in the heart of people who have faith there is no room for pessimism.
--- Announced in the Old Testament
In order to better understand this sign of the wedding feast we must return to the Old Testament. It is for this reason that we are presented today with the reading from the prophet Isaiah. This passage enables us to understand the gospel because the prophet describes the relationship between God and humanity by using the figure of a wedding. How wonderful to know that God loves us in this way, that God loves us as spouses!
--- Jerusalem, downcast and humbled enters a new situation which is described as nuptial intimacy
As a sign of God’s love for humanity and of God’s desire to redeem all people Jerusalem is told: You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the Lord, a royal diadem held by your God (Isaiah 62:3). It was customary at that time for the kings to wear a crown that symbolized the walls of the city and in this passage it appears that God is taking as his crown the walls of Jerusalem: a royal diadem held by your God (Isaiah 62:3). See how for God glory is equated with the happiness of women and men? Look at the seeming foolishness of God, we are God’s crown; we are the height of his joy and we have been created to experience happiness: No more shall men call you “Forsaken,” or your land “Desolate,” but you shall be called “My Delight,”--- here we see the tenderness that a bridegroom experiences toward his bride --- and your land “Espoused” (Isaiah 62:4), because the Lord prefers the people of Jerusalem. As a bridegroom commits himself to his bride so too God commits himself to the people that he has formed. The joy that a bridegroom experiences as he weds his wife, this same happiness God finds in the people of Jerusalem. Thus we see that the joy of God coincides with the joy of women and men.
Here I want to draw a conclusion and state that our religion is a feast.
Our coming together on Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist ought to be characterized by joy that results from our contact with God who loves us. We ought to sing and participate in the Eucharistic celebration. I am greatly inspired as we leave church on Sunday. I see joy and love and kindness as we greet one another before leaving for our homes.
I want to draw another conclusion here and state that each married couple ought to be a sign of God’s joy that is made real among us.
There should be no bitterness between spouses or between spouses and their children. There should be such harmony and love that as we look at the family we come to realize that God indeed must be most wonderful because he creates such wonderful people. When we see a family walking together, then we can see the joy of God reflected on earth. This is the great mystery of matrimony. I say that every man and woman who marries and has children, such people are Church, are Christ, are community, are the family of God that is reflected in the families of this world. Thus we see that salvation is presented to us in the sign of a wedding feast.
a) As we reflect on the symbols in Saint John’s gospel we see that Mary is not simply presented here as the mother of Jesus, rather she is presented as an image of the Church
Here Saint John wishes to situate us in the presence of Jesus and Mary and thus he speaks to us about the relationship between Jesus and the Church. This is one of the beautiful things about the Second Vatican Council. They crowned their reflections on the Church by writing a chapter about Mary, the Mother of the Church. Thus, all of our pastoral ministry, our missionary work, our catechetics … all of this must be done so that people become like Mary. Mary is the model of the Church that we attempt to build up and so Mary is both the goal and the inspiration for all our ecclesiastical ministry.
--- The mother of Jesus was there with Jesus
Mary is with Jesus and this is the first sign of Mary’s presence. We never encounter Mary separated from Jesus nor Jesus separated from Mary. To desire Christianity without Mary is to remove the precious stone from a ring of gold, the stone that provides so much light and beauty to the whole ring. To desire Jesus without Mary is to desire a child without its mother’s arms. Christmas without Mary has no meaning. The same could be said about desiring the cross without Mary standing beneath it. Such a scene would be one of abandonment because the tenderness of the maternal arms that receive him as he is lowered from the cross would be missing. Mary is indispensable. She is not divine or a goddess but she is an intimate collaborator with God and we cannot leave her aside.
Therefore there is a true beauty in the words of today’s gospel: … the mother of Jesus was there and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding (John 2:1-2). Thus we see Mary and Jesus and all Christians united together.
--- Confident intercession
Another sign of Mary’s presence is seen in her confident intercession. Our prayer is more effective when we place it in Mary’s hands. We ourselves are Mary because we are also Church when we pray for one another, when in our affliction we raise our voice to Jesus and say: there is no wine (John 2:3) and when we are more concerned about praying for others rather than for ourselves. What generosity is manifested by this sense of community!
--- Jesus’ response is not a rejection but an expression of Mary’s role
Jesus’ response is also a mystery: Woman! (John2:4). This is not an expression of contempt but is the original way in which people from the East said Missus. Woman , this word also expresses something more profound because this is another word for Eve, which refers to the mother of the living. Thus what is being said here is that God has created this wonderful being so that from her womb might come forth human life. For Jesus, Mary is more than his physical mother … she is the mother created by God to bring forth spiritually and divinize humankind. Woman is to speak like Adam, who in Paradise called his collaborator Eve, a companion who would enable them both to populate the earth.
--- How does your concern affect me … my primary relationship is with the Father
Let us look at Jesus’ response: how does your concern affect me? (John 2:4). This is not a sign of contempt but a profound revelation that the relationship between Jesus and Mary is one of subordination to a higher will. This response is similar to that of the child Jesus who spoke to Mary when he was lost in the Temple: Why are you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? (Luke 2:49). What else must you and I do but obey the Father? The hour that God designates is the time for miracles and not the time that you and I ask for such a miracle. In other words, the relationship between Jesus and the Church is one of obedience to the hour of the Father, one of collaborating with Jesus in obedience to the Father. This is indeed great because Mary does not impose herself in such a manner as to distort the plans of God but rather she is the handmaid of the Lord (Luke 1:38). As she collaborates with Jesus, she does this not as a function of mother to son but as a function of a creature in relation to her Creator, always obeying the will of the Father.
--- My hour
When Jesus said: My hour has not yet come (John 2:4), he is saying: your hour is also still to come. When I am glorified, your mission will also be glorified and if now we are going to anticipate this hour by performing a miracle it is because we are going to give a sign of that which will be carried out later by the Church. You will always be the intimate collaborator in the hour in which I redeem the world. You will receive from my hands all the graces that humanity needs (an adaptation and an elaboration of John 2:4).
See how Jesus’ response and the dialogue between Jesus and Mary open to us the horizons for a profound Mariology, a theology of Mary and a theology of the Church. Saint John is a man steeped in theology; with the signs that were done during Jesus’ life Saint John is also telling us that these signs have a profound content and therefore have much to teach us.
--- Mary’s attitude: trusting and confident
The attitude of Mary ought to be our attitude as Church: trusting but active. We ought to pray as though everything depended on God and work as though everything depended on us. As soon as Mary offers her prayer to Jesus she turns toward the servants and says: Let us do our part. Fill the stone water jars and do whatever he tells you (an adaptation of John 2:5). A miracle will not occur simply by waiting for God, rather we must do our part, we must do all that we can. A miracle supposes action. In Mary we find that faith and action are united. This should also be true of every Catholic: we ought to unite our faith … faith that enables us to place all our trust in God … with our human values. We ought to believe in our human activity and be willing to place our trust in our sisters and brothers.
b) The charismatic relationship of Mary-Church to Jesus
--- Mary, the fullness of charisms
In today’s second reading we find what I refer to as Mary, the figure of the Church that is rich in charisms.
--- Paul VI in Fatima --- the fullness of the hierarchy and charismatic fullness
I remember when Pope Paul traveled to Fatima. There is story that when he was before the statue of the Virgin and about to place a gold and silver rosary on her hands someone, inspired by this scene, shouted out: this is a meeting between the crown of charisms and the crown of the hierarchy. Yes, the Church is both hierarchic and charismatic.
The hierarchy is composed of the Pope, the bishops, priests and all those who have been entrusted with the mission of the One who said: As the Father has sent me, so I send you (John 20:21). Charisms are composed of all those qualities that are found among the People of God and that the hierarchy evaluates and places at the service of the common good. Charism and hierarchy cannot be separated.
Mary is not a member of the hierarchy. Mary was not chosen to be the Pope. Mary was not placed here by Christ to be a priest and celebrate the sacraments. Mary remained like you, my beloved Christian women, a woman of the people. But Mary possessed one other grace, the richness of the charisms.
Charisms are all the gifts that God bestows upon a person so that said person might be able to undertake a distinctive role in the community. Mary is the model of all those persons who need a charism in order to serve the community. It is for this reason that we, the bishops, look to her as the model of our pastoral ministry. For those who are married, she is the model of married love and for young people she is the model of the joy of youth, and for children she is the model of the confidence that one places in a mother.
Mary is everything that the Church needs in her charismatic life. Therefore Mary cannot be absent from our hearts or homes … we all need her. She does not possess hierarchic powers like those that Saint Peter had: the power to forgive sins or celebrate the Eucharist. Mary did not have these. These hierarchical powers God has channeled for official service which is exercised by the institutional Church. We should not look down upon these gifts because Jesus has desired to confer these official channels upon the hierarchy so that the Church might be united as a community. This hierarchical authority would be useless unless the Spirit that has given me the vocation to be a priest also bestowed charisms on the People of God so that we might find what I see here before me today: people with an incredible faith who are listening to me, people of good will filled with the Holy Spirit and willing to carry on the work that we are speaking about this morning … all of this is a charism. You give life to the words that I am preaching because you bring this word from the hierarchy and the teaching of the hierarchy to the life that you live in the midst of the world.
Thus Mary is the wonderful sign of the reading that was proclaimed this morning. I beseech you to reflect on this reading because I believe that there we find the key to resolve our national problems. True, Saint Paul is speaking about the Christian community and previously we have made some important distinctions in this regard: the People of God are distinct from people in general but the People of God, those who have been baptized, those who constitute the Church, must be light to all people.
I have spoken to you before about the fact that in Europe the Benedictine monasteries were a model for civilization because of the way the monks lived their lives in the monastery … with such balance between authority and freedom … served as a model for the way in which society should be built. The societies of the Western world copied from these communities a style of life that enabled them to live a more human life.
If in El Salvador Christians were to live together as a true community, as the People of God, inspired by faith, enlightened with hope, and animated by fraternal love, as children of the same Father, then these religious communities or ecclesial base communities or Christian communities would be providing us with a model, a plan as to how to organize the society of El Salvador.
--- The Spirit the and diversity of gifts
How could the Church not be a model for the nation if she puts in practice that which Saint Paul has spoken about today: There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).
--- An example of the pluralist attitude that comes together in unity for the common good
Look at this wise principle: to each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit (1 Corinthians 12:7). Not everyone serves in the same way but each one must serve in some way. Together all of these different forms of service constitute the common good: To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom, to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8-9). Saint Paul continues to point out the different charisms and he concludes by saying: But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes (1 Corinthians 12:11).
My sisters and brothers, today we refer to this as pluralism, distinct ways of seeing things, distinct political plans, distinct options but what is beautiful in all of this is that individuals, according to their decisions, seek the common good and together we build one nation with the gifts that we have received. We place in common what each one has received. The Word of God is giving us a marvelous solution and encouraging us to live as a Church united in the Spirit and serving the same Lord. In this way we become a model for the nation. Unfortunately, and I am embarrassed to say this, we are not even united as the People of God.
But this then is the work of everyone. Indeed no one single person is the cause of our division and so each one of us must learn how to generously place the gifts that we have received at the service of others. If other people do not want to receive these gifts, then that is their fault, but we have the certain knowledge that the gifts that we have received from the Lord have been placed at the service of all.
--- Object of the Epiphany … Jesus reveals his signs … and the faith of the disciples was deepened
I conclude my meditation with this last idea which is found at the end of today’s gospel passage: Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory and his disciples began to believe in him (John 2:11). This is what I want to be able to say about all of us who have joined together this morning to share in this reflection: that we have grown in our faith, that we have grown in our experience of Church and that we have grown also as a nation. Let us move forward from our reflection this morning with the joy and optimism that Jesus wants to place before us as the characteristic of his first sign: the joy of a feast, trust in times of difficulty and joy in collaborating with Jesus.
--- The disciples of John the Baptist have moved beyond the stages of the Old Testament
The disciples of John the Baptist (many of whom became disciples of Jesus) have moved beyond a certain phase. John the Baptist moved to the edge of the Old Testament but now these men, men that John the Baptist handed over to Jesus, have discovered that in the person of Jesus, God has entered into history.
They believe in Jesus the powerful God. They believe in Jesus as Savior … Jesus, the Lord’s salvation. The disciples have this and Saint John will write about this profound experience: We saw his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Look at the wonderful testimony that we, as Christians, ought to carry forth: We know him! We know that he exists in history! We have experienced this reality this morning in our celebration of the Eucharist! He has taught us! He has filled us with optimism! Let us bring the glory of the Lord to all parts of the world … the glory of the Lord which means that we believe in him and are willing to do the things that we must do.
All of this calls us to examine our Christian attitude because we are called to deepen within ourselves a sense of trust and responsibility in our work. We are called to believe that there is no insoluble problem that Christ cannot solve. At this time in our nation what we most need, what we need above all else, is women and men who place all their trust in Christ and work with all their strength on behalf of the nation.
Events of the week
In our Archdiocese
First let us look at our Church and see if what we are doing and how we are working is building up the Church as prefigured so beautifully today by Mary … building a Church rich in charisms and powerful in her prayer of intercession.
What is the meaning of this day when we celebrate the anniversary of the violent death of Father Octavio Ortiz and four other young people in El Despertar? The novena celebrated in their honor concluded last night with a prayer service. I was told that Father Rafael was present there last night and offered a profound reflection. I rejoice that the death of priests and Christian women and men has created an enthusiasm in our communities and that the burning flame of faith has not been extinguished. The people in El Despertar are preparing for the final event today: a procession to the parish church of San Francisco in Mejicanos where this morning I will have the privilege of offering Mass at 11:00am at the tomb of Father Octavio.
I want to remind you that one year ago, at the entrance of the Cathedral and in front of the four coffins, we celebrated a funeral which appeared to be a celebration of the Easter Resurrection. On that occasion and in the atmosphere of the Octave for Christian Unity, our beloved and well-known brother, Dr. Lara Braud, honored our martyrs with his words. Since January 18th our Church, together with other Christian churches, has been celebrating the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity.
It is sad that while efforts are being made to achieve unity and understanding, other actions such as those described by Father Interiano are occurring in Cadelaria in Cuscatlán: I am sad to have to inform you that on Saturday a campaign of proselytism was concluded. This campaign was organized by a Protestant sect from Cojutepeque and every night for a week they mounted powerful loud speakers in the public square and there proclaimed their message, acting as though this week of prayer for Christian unity had no importance. This kind of action appears to me to be a countersign because at a time when we are called to heal the sin of disunity some people prefer to foment disunity instead of working together for unity.
I invite all of you to pray intensely during the Octave for Christian Unity so that Jesus’ dream might become a reality, so that all who believe in him might become one. If you are unable to participate in the public ceremonies then I encourage you to pray in private for the same intention.
Tonight our ecumenical prayer will take place in the church of San Francisco in Mejicanos. There at the tomb of Father Octavio, Protestants and Catholics will gather together to pray. On Thursday night we will come together again to pray here, in the Basilica. At this time I want to invite all of you to participate in this ecumenical prayer service which will take place at 7:00pm on Thursday.
Sister Nicolasa and Sister Beatriz, both of whom ministered in Arcatao and whom you listened to last Sunday, have been ordered to return to Mexico by their superior. They carry with them the gratitude of our people and the hope and desire that they will return. Their hearts are with the people of Arcatao and they suffer greatly as they leave our country. Indeed, in leaving their suffering is greater than if they had remained here. I believe that they have to return so that this community that loves them and that is suffering so much can receive the consolation of these Sisters. It is good that they are able to get some rest and able to do this at a place distant from here. There they can be nourished and strengthened and then return to minister here with new vigor.
Yesterday all the religious women and men in El Salvador met. They came together as members of CONFRES (Conference of Religious in El Salvador). The religious communities have been a powerful pastoral force in all of Latin America. Their efforts to become more holy and to work together gives hope to the people of the Archdiocese and to the people of every diocese in El Salvador.
Three novices in the Somascan Congregation will make their religious profession in the Basilica of Ceiba thus enriching religious life. We congratulate these women and we rejoice with their Congregation which today becomes more numerous with these three new members.
From Thursday to Saturday we participated in a pastoral formation program, the theme of which was: ecclesial base communities. During this time our pastoral ministers learned about various ways to put into practice one of the Archdiocesan pastoral guidelines that we hold in high esteem: to create ecclesial base communities.
Our secretary for social communication was obliged to make a clarifying statement because of an anonymous news report that was transmitted on Radio Sonora. It was stated that a priest named Federico López Pérez was working in the Chancery and had spoken to others about his plan to set fire to the Basilica. We stated that no priest exists with that name and no one with that name works here in the Chancery and we have heard nothing about a plan to set fire to the Basilica. I see that there is a danger in these anonymous reports that are transmitted over the radio. I want to express my gratitude to Radio Sonora and YSU for the invitation that was extended to me to clarify this situation. Because these anonymous reports often lend themselves to abuse and also are offensive and distort facts I did not believe it opportune to accept their invitation. Thanks to God, I have a wonderful means of communication and dialogue, my homilies and YSAX and through these means I am able to speak with you. We hope to always have these means available to us and we know that you desire the same thing. It would be good to be mindful of these anomalies. There is no doubt that noble efforts are being made to place the means of communication at the service of the people but we must be careful not to abuse the media.
Last Sunday I participated in the gathering of laity from the vicariate of Cuscatlán who met in San Pedro Perulapán. I was happy to see the many different ways in which our diocese is promoting the laity everywhere.
I celebrated the feast of the Lord of Esquipulas in Aguilares where the people celebrated their patronal feast in a very animated manner. In that area there are very strong ecclesial base communities and when these communities come together as one body they give a profound meaning to community prayer.
The following day I was in the village of San Miguelito, Chalatenango. There I rejoiced in what looked like Palm Sunday as children, carrying pine branches in their hands, processed to the chapel to celebrate the Eucharist.
A similar scene occurred in San Ignacio, Chalatenango, where Father Vito had prepared young people for the sacrament of Confirmatiuon. This is a very scenic area. There one is able to climb Las Pelas, a place beyond Miramundo, 2,300 meters above sea level and the highest point in El Salvador. There one finds oneself very close to heaven and in the presence of a community filled with God, a community that listens to our message. Therefore, from this Cathedral, which today is the Basilica, I take advantage of this opportunity to greet them and congratulate them.
In La Palma, which is the seat of that parish, we celebrated First Communion and the sacrament of Confirmation. Here there are eighteen campesinos who have been authorized to bring Communion to their villages, to guard the Eucharist in their homes, and to lead the people in worship. I was filled with joy to meet such holy men, men who had been formed to exercise this ministry and serve our Church in this manner.
Another service was provided to our church by Roberto Cuellar who represented the Legal Aid group of the Archdiocese at a human rights meeting that was held in Costa Rica from January 2-16. Various nations from Latin America participated in this gathering. Mr. Cuellar is now once again working with us in the Chancery as always.
As I communicate to you this news about our Archdiocese and as I do this in the atmosphere of family, I want to tell you that, God willing, next Friday I will leave to receive an honorary doctorate at Louvain and I will return one week later. The following Friday I will return and bring to you this honor that I will receive in the name of this beloved community. I hope that you will feel yourselves honored by the University that has so graciously bestowed this honor upon me.
I am not going to talk about world news events because you already know about all of that. I simply encourage you to be attentive to the condition of the world because the different situations encourage us in our faith and provide us with the opportunity to live our faith in accord with the signs of the times. I simply note here that the Pope sees the situation in Afghanistan as a danger to world peace and exhorts the world’s powers to fulfill their responsibility of safeguarding peace. He said the Church’s mission also involves a commitment with those nations seeking independence and therefore people have a right to decide their destiny and to do this according to their national and religious heritage.
Events of our national reality
Strengthened by the Word of God and in light of so much violence that has affected distinct areas of our country I am obliged to call out once again to all Christians and people of good will … I am obliged to call you to reflect on the present situation of our country and to act responsibly so that we do not fall into total civil war.
I am going to present to you the facts and then with pastoral criteria we will attempt to analyze all of this.
I) It is clear that at this time in El Salvador there exists three economic-political plans which are opposed to one another and each one of these plans wants to prevail over the others.
First, the plan of the oligarchy, whose members use all their tremendous economic power in order to impede others from implementing structural change that would adversely affect their interests and which would ultimately favor the majority of the people of El Salvador. They seek to maintain the present economic-oligarchic system which is clearly unjust and which has also become unbearable. They do this by pressuring economists and politicians and will even resort to violence. At the present time they have been able to attract individuals from the private business sector and members of the army to join with them in defending the interests of the oligarchy. It is rumored that this group has contracted mercenaries who will unscrupulously fight against any other group that attempts to redistribute the national wealth and income. While the White Warriors Union has been sanctioned yet they have initiated bloody and criminal actions … and yes, this group has begun to act.
Second, the government plan is promoted by the Armed Forces and the Christian Democratic Party. Despite the publication of their statement which gave precision to the words and plans of the Armed Forces, a plan that took an anti-oligarchy position, despite the fact that they have promised to undertake structural reform, the present government has, in practice, been unable to bring together the different sectors of the country and the popular organizations. Rather they have dedicated their efforts to acts of repression and the indiscriminate and disproportionate massacre of the campesinos and others sectors of the people. We have witnessed such actions in the area of Arcatao.
Third, the third plan is presented by the popular political-military organizations. Their plan seems to be unifying this sector. They have called upon all democratic organizations, progressive individuals, small and intermediate businesses and soldiers of integrity to form a broad, powerful base of revolutionary and democratic forces that will make it possible for social justice and democracy to reign in our country. The popular plan has been initiated with a call to unity and coordination among the distinct popular and political-military organizations. They have not yet concretized their invitation to the democratic and progressive elements to join together in search for the common good and to do this in a way that would avoid violence and vengeance and all actions that would extend and intensify the shedding of blood.
II) The pastoral criteria that I believe should be used in analyzing these plans are the following:
Above all I remind everyone that the Church does not identify herself with any one of these plans nor does she desire to take a role of leadership in a process that is clearly political. In my Fourth Pastoral Letter I wrote words that I want to emphasize once again today: the Church is interested only in offering the country the light of the gospel for the full salvation and betterment of men and women, a salvation that also involves the structures within which Salvadorans live, so that, rather than get in their way, the structures can help them live out their lives as children of God (The Church’s Mission Amid the National Crisis, #31). This is the mission of the Church and as you can see our mission is evangelical. No community or pastoral minister can say that any one specific plan is the plan of the Christian community. We simply promote the human person and do so in light of the gospel. As a Church that is established on this earth we can struggle and encourage one another so that the political-social-economic structures truly benefit the integral promotion of the human person. Therefore the light that must enlighten the plans that I have spoken about must be lights of the gospel and lights of moral character,
a) With regard to the plan of the oligarchy
We cannot approve this plan but must disavow it … disavow the conduct of those persons who are making it almost impossible to resolve the structural crisis in a peaceful way because they are using every means to defend their privileges and accumulated wealth and do not want to share their wealth and power with all the people of El Salvador. Once more I want to remind you, members of the oligarchy, of the teaching of Medellin: If those who have a greater share of wealth, culture and power jealously retain their privileges and defend them though violence, they are responsible to history for provoking the explosive revolution of despair (Medellin Document, On Peace, #17). In great part the peaceful future of El Salvador depends on you.
Those who are economically powerful should also be mindful of the words of Pope John Paul II who during his inaugural address at Puebla stated: The Church’s teaching, which states that there is a social mortgage on all private property, takes on an urgent character. No one has property that does not have a social mortgage, a mortgage on behalf of the common good. The Pope then goes on to say: Insofar as this teaching is concerned, the Church has a mission to fulfill. It must preach, educate persons and groups, shape public opinion and give direction to national officials. In so doing it will be working for the good of society. Eventually this Christian, evangelical principle will lead to a more just and equitable distribution of goods (Pope John Paul II, Opening Address at Puebla, January 28, 1978, #III,4).
b) With regard to the second plan, the government’s plan
In the first place let us examine some of the judgments of the former officials of the government so that you and all people can objectively judge all of this. According to these former officials, the possibilities have been exhausted for establishing reformist solutions in alliance with the present leadership of the Armed Forces, which is dominated by pro-oligarchic elements, and without real participation of the people. The solution that these former officials propose is to set up a democratic regime, one of genuine social justice that demands as a fundamental element --- these are their words --- as a fundamental element it requires the participation and direction of the people, their popular and democratic organizations, and genuine confrontation of the oligarchy and its allies.
I believe that the members of the Christian Democratic Party and other participants in the present government ought to give much attention to the opinion of these former government officials who together with certain elements of the military have not abandoned their aspirations for change and justice. There must be dialogue with the popular organizations and other groups among the progressive democratic sector so that they can study the ways to create a broad based government that has been proposed by these same popular organizations and some former government officials … a government based on the consensus of the majority of the people. No government can ever become established that, along with its promises of change and social justice, is straining itself more each day, with the alarming reports that come to us from everywhere of repressive cruelty at the expense of the people themselves.
You can read about all of this in today’s edition of Orientación. I am not going to take up more of your time but I want to state that the events that have occurred in the area of Arcatao are cruel. Under the guise of vengeance and searching for a member of the Guardia who disappeared, under of guise of flushing out pockets of radical guerrillas the rural population has been threatened and individuals indiscriminately assassinated. I recognize that there is no justifiable reason to assassinate someone simply because one is a member of ORDEN (Democratic Nationalist Organization) or the Guardia Nacional. I denounced this crime last Sunday when I warned people not to ignite a spark in that area. Today I once again denounce this crime and at the same time deplore the disproportionate punishment that has been inflicted on the campesinos, many of whom have become innocent victims.
I received a letter from the wife of the Guardia and I believe that as human beings we also feel her sorrow. She became aware of the tragedy that her husband was involved in when she heard me speak about this in my homily last Sunday. Until then she was unaware that something had happened to her husband. She then wrote me and personally brought her letter to me: with my eyes focused on God and on you, I come with these humble words to beg you once again to intercede on behalf of my husband, José Elías Torres Quintanilla, a member of the Guardia Nacional who was abducted on January 12th while going from Arcatao to Chalatenango. Elements of a clandestine group are responsible for his abduction and since that time nothing further has been heard about him. I know that you have previously interceded on his behalf but I ask you to do so once again. I hope that your help will mitigate my anguish as a wife and as a mother of an eight month old child who needs his father. May God reward you for all the good you do and for the ways in which you act on our behalf. Last night I heard rumors (and I do not know if these rumors have been confirmed) that the body of this Guardia who had disappeared had been found. We can never approve of such an action. Indeed, such actions are criminal. The Pope has stated that we must call things by their name.
I have here an eyewitness account concerning the events occurring there. A campesino wrote me: We are very sad because at this time a very cruel persecution and a series of massacres have been inflicted on campesinos, women, men and children who live in this Department. We are being harassed by the authorities and elements of ORDEN and this has given rise to a panic that has never before been seen in this northern area. We have personally experienced all of this because in the area where we live we are now surrounded by refugees who have come here with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They have no place to live and cannot return to their homes which they abandoned. Their homes have been sacked, others have been burned, farm animals stolen or slaughtered, their crops destroyed … so many violent acts have been committed against these poor people and their only offense is that they are poor and organized.
A Sister visited this area and wrote me: We are moving about this area with sadness because we see that the action that was taken here is not simply a response to the capture of a member of the Guardia. People have taken advantage of this situation to repress people and this appears to have been previously planned by high ranking officials. We are pained by the bloodshed, the price that people are forced to pay in order to achieve their liberation. Indeed, the amount of blood that has been shed by Christians is unacceptable. When there is no remedy, however, then the bloodshed becomes meaningful when it is joined with the blood of the crucified Jesus and then it takes on a redemptive value.
The government Junta ought to order in an effective way an immediate cessation to the indiscriminate repression because the Junta is also responsible for the blood and the suffering of so many people. The Armed Forces, especially the Security Forces, ought to put aside the hatred and savage cruelty which is directed toward the people. They ought to show with actions that they support the majority of people and understand that the process which has been initiated by these people has a popular character. You, many of you who are in the Armed Forces, owe your origins to these popular sectors and therefore your military institution ought to be placed at the service of people. Do not destroy people! Do not become part of those who promote greater and more powerful outbursts of violence --- outbursts which would provoke a response from those who are oppressed.
I have a very expressive letter from a group of soldiers … a very revealing letter. I am going to read the part which is probably of greater interest to us: We, a group of soldiers, ask you to publicize the problems that we encounter and the demands that we have placed before senior officials, the government Junta and other leaders. We express our gratitude to you for your help. We want to obtain better conditions for the troops of the FAES [Armed Forces of El Salvador]. We ask 1) for better food, 2) that the troops should not be beaten with clubs, 3) better clothing, 4) increase our salary [presently we receive 20.00-30.00 colones monthly and when all deductions are made we are left with almost nothing], 5) do not command us to repress people … dear soldiers as you listen to the applause of the people you find hands extended to you in your time of anguish … 6) we continue to ask that food and lodging and other necessities to maintain the troops not be deducted from our salary, 7) give us reasons before you send us into combat, 8) the Armed Forces are composed of troops, commanders and officials and the commanders and officials are responsible for the oppression that has been inflicted on the people , 9) increase our life insurance which is now only 2,000.00 colones and 10) we call upon people in general, workers, campesinos, students and popular and revolutionary organizations, to support us in our struggle to achieve better conditions and at the same time we accept the responsibility to create an Armed Forces that protects and defends the interests of the people and not the rich as is being done at the present time.
My commentary on all of this can be summed up with the following words: light comes from those who are humble. The government plan which we are talking about … if people want to save this plan then the part that is decaying has to be amputated and the part that is healthy should remain. A plan based on fear or other evil considerations and that attempts to give an honest appearance to that which is not honest is doomed to failure and will not find acceptance among the people.
b) The popular plan
Finally, I want to speak about the popular plan. I find hope in the efforts that are being made to coordinate their actions because they have extended an invitation to other democratic sectors of the country in order to create a broader and more powerful unity. I hope that this invitation is sincere and I hope that it is understood that such an invitation supposes an openness and flexibility so that an economic-political plan can be developed and carried out together as a result of arriving at a consensus of the majority. I hope that your plan will respect and safeguard the development of Christian faith and the Christian values of the people.
The Pope has said that political plans must respect the sentiments of the people. Applying these words to El Salvador I speak to the leaders of the popular organizations and warn you to be careful about the propaganda that you disseminate (yes, I realize there is much hypocrisy in some of the anti-communist propaganda) because we do not want to have to confront the establishment of an ideology that is in no way in accord with the Christian nature of El Salvador. It is for this reason that the popular plan that calls for unity must also be mindful of the development of the Christian faith and the values of our people. As Church we will always raise our voices to defend this principle.
To those who support the popular plan I want to address to you the same words that I said to those who support the government’s plan: words and promises are not enough, especially when these words are shouted out in the streets in a demagogic manner. We need action. Therefore, as Pastor, I will be watchful to see if your actions are capable of promoting the broad unity that is characterized by the elements that I have just pointed out.
I also address here the popular organizations, especially those organizations of a military or guerrilla nature and I say: stop your acts of violence and terrorism which so often are meaningless and which only provoke greater violence. I speak to you with the words of Puebla: Violence inexorably engenders new forms of oppression and bondage, which usually prove to be more serious than the ones people are allegedly being liberated from. But most important, violence is an attack on life, which depends on the Creator alone. And we must also stress that when an ideology appeals to violence, it thereby admits its own weakness and inadequacy (Puebla, #532).
In light of these criteria I have to point out the violence and the events that sadden us, that cause us to suffer, and that call us to deepen our solidarity and accompaniment.
The Cathedral and the churches of El Rosario and San José have been occupied, as well as other churches in different areas of the Archdiocese. I believe that I can say the same thing about the occupation of the parish churches as Radio YSAX said about the occupation of the Panamanian Embassy by the Ligas Populares 28 de Febrero. Our radio station stated: at this time when popular organizations seek international support and invite people to unite, the occupation of such buildings damages the credibility of the popular organizations . Applying these words to the occupation of our churches I would say that at this time when the popular organizations are calling people to unity, why offend the intimate sentiments with which people enter our churches? I hope these organizations mature and do not continue to act foolishly in such serious matters. Respect our churches if you are truly with the people and want to defend their rights … one of the most sacred rights of people is the right to enter a church and worship God in the way that they desire.
I want to speak here about the situation of abductions. These are acts of violence which disturb the process toward peace for our country. I have a beautiful letter from Don José Antonio Morales who asked me to thank God for the release of his grandson, Fidelito, who was abducted some months ago. His grandfather speaks about the tragedy that he experienced: It causes me great anguish to know that there are people whose hearts will allow other people to suffer. My grandson had to endure such suffering while he was held captive. He was forced to take drugs and what saddens me even more is that he had to listen to his captors tell him that if they did not receive the money they had demanded, they would kill him. At that time my grandson said that he thought about his father and mother and many other individuals whom he would never see again. We, his family, also suffered,. We found ourselves in a situation where it was impossible to pay the amount of ransom that was demanded. We were able to maintain our hope by believing that God would work a miracle. Don José stated that when one has faith in prayer then God is able to work a miracle. I present the testimony of Don José because for you and me this is a clear manifestation of what it means to trust in God, a clear manifestation of what we have proclaimed concerning today’s gospel.
In the name of the Human Rights Commission I thank the ERP (the People’s Revolutionary Army) for the attention that they gave to my request to give us more time so that we can at last bring to a close the case of Jaime Hill Argüello. YSAX commented: Hopefully the ERP will be realistic and it is this that we ask above all else. We ask them to be mindful of the national and international situation in which they carry out their actions. Jaime’s wife and other family members assure you that they will do all that is possible to preserve Jaime’s life, but you are asking them to do something impossible. In light of impossible demands no one is obliged to meet such demands. We pray that you will enter into negotiations which will discuss demands that are able to be met.
The Family of Mr. Dunn, the former ambassador to South Africa, has asked the FPL (Popular Liberation Forces) to speed up the negotiations so that this situation can be resolved. The objectives of publicity that were proposed by the FPL have been achieved and so his family asks that you not be intransigent in demanding that which is impossible. This family cannot rely on support from their country and they find themselves in a very precarious economic situation. Since they have asked me to act as a mediator, I ask you to be mindful of their situation and to speed up the process of setting this man free.
I am also concerned about other cases of abduction but I will not speak about these now because I do not want to take up more of your time. I do ask those who are responsible for these abductions to do all that is possible so that the problems of our nation can be resolved. Everyone must respect the rights of the human person.
While speaking about the correspondence that I have received and at this time while making certain denunciations, I want to mention the report from the community of Tamanique in which they state that on January 14th three Guardia from La Libertad entered the estate of San Alfonso and searched two houses and committed a series of abuses. I am very pained by the fact that the soldiers pointed toward a Bible and then pushed one of the occupants of the house aside and used vulgar language.
Family members of Julio César Quinteros Cortés, who was assassinated by the ERP because he had been accused to being an active member of the political police, have denounced this accusation. It appears that there was confusion in the names and the person mentioned by the ERP should have been Julio César Flores. Documents were brought to our office to prove this fact and I have been asked to correct this mistake in my homily --- a mistake that had tragic consequences.
The UND (Democratic Nationalist Union) has asked me to condemn the capture of their companion, Andrés Isabel Mejía Flores and his son, Napoleón Hernández Mejía. This took place in Alcalde de San Cayetano Istepeque where they were captured by members of the National Guard and the army on January 15th at 2:30 in the afternoon. They were taken from their house. Their family has visited me and explained that they have been falsely accused and asked that these individuals be quickly released.
The UND also denounces the abduction of Lorenza Guardado which took place on January 12th, one block from the headquarters of the National Guard in San Miguel. Furthermore, they denounce the abuse of the student, Ovidio Martínez.
I received a letter from AGEUS (General Association of Salvadoran University Students) and UR-19 asking me to denounce the repression of the campesinos in the area of Chalatenango and the lamentable situation of the people in Tugurios and the workers in the factories that have been closed. As you can see in their letter they can be assured of our solidarity and the defense of the Church which will always act on behalf of our people, especially those who are suffering.
The workers of Route 13, 14, 15 and the workers of SASHA who are affiliated with ESTIMES have made me aware of their demands for a salary increase and greater respect for their human dignity. I am grateful to them for their expressions of solidarity with the Church and I pray God that through a dialogue of understanding these conflicts can be resolved.
With regard to the Asilo Sara, someone has said: this is not a calm home for the elderly but rather we call this home a place of terror and death. They denounce the fact that on December 3rd, a nurse, Ana Isabel García Montoya, was assassinated at the front door of the home and at the beginning of January, the watchman, Andrés Lemos, was assassinated at his post in front of the home. Other personnel have complained about the many false denunciations and accusations that are phoned into the home.
Everyone has read in the newspapers about a series of violent actions, and I am greatly concerned about the following statistic: since May 1st 72 buses have been burned and there has been much bloodshed during this same period of time.
Our Legal Aid group has informed us that the body of German Flores Sañas, originally from Armenia, has been found and identified. In 1979 when this man was arrested, Legal Aid presented a petition of habeas corpus on his behalf. The Investigation Commission on the matter of political prisoners and those who have disappeared pointed out that they had gathered sufficient evidence regarding his detention and stated that he was presumed to have died after his arrest. The discovery of his body confirms this fact. This is sad because the list of those who have disappeared continues to grow smaller not because these people are found to be alive but because we continue to find dead bodies.
Concerning the housing problem of forty families from Tugurios. These people were displaced from their homes and they wanted to enter into negotiations with Social Security so that they might receive some form of restitution that would enable them to build houses. Instead they were displaced. They have taken up lodging in San José and as a protest have occupied the church El Rosario. The problem of housing and people who are marginalized is serious and love and inventiveness are necessary in order to resolve this situation. I ask that everything possible be done for these groups of people.
My beloved sisters and brothers, finally I call out to all the sectors of the nation to take the necessary steps so that we can avoid a civil war. We want to establish an authentic justice in our nation. To do this it is necessary that everyone be willing to share with others what they have and what they are. It is also necessary that everyone participate, according to their possibilities, in the creation of economic-political structures that are in accord with God’s plan and which favor all the people of El Salvador.
In particular I call upon the sector that is not organized, the sector that up until the present time has maintained themselves on the margin of the political events but who have nonetheless suffered the consequences of these situations. In accord with the demands of Medellin I recommend that you act in favor of justice with the means that you have at your disposal and do not remain passive out of fear of the personal sacrifices and risks that every daring and truly effective action implies. Otherwise you will also be responsible for the injustice and its harmful consequences.
But let it be quite clear that in making this appeal for people to organize, I am not saying that you must join one or another organization. I simply mean that you should use your critical sense, each one of you, and put it at the service of the common good just as Saint Paul tells us today when he says that the Spirit gives gifts, not for personal use, but for the good of all (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:7).