Oscar Romero’s Last Homily


Capilla de Hospital de la Divina Providencia
Capilla de Hospital de la Divina Providencia

At 6:00 p.m. on Monday, March 24, 1980, Monsignor Romero commenced his celebration of a memorial mass for the mother of the publisher and editor of a newspaper that was a voice for justice and human rights in El Salvador.  The service was held in the beautiful, intimate, modern chapel at a cancer hospital in San Salvador that was across the street from Romero’s small apartment.[1]

In what turned out to be his last homily, Romero lead the people in Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd . . . . Though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff–they comfort me.” Romero then read the gospel text for the service, John 12: 23-26:

“Jesus [said], ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified . . . . [U]nless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain, but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their own life lose it; those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.'”

Romero Mural @ His Apartment

Romero said, “[E]very Christian ought to want to live intensely. Many do not understand; they think Christianity should not be involved in such things. But, to the contrary, you have just heard in Christ’s gospel than one must not love oneself so much as to avoid getting involved in the risks of life that history demands of us, and that those who try to fend off the danger will lose their lives, while those who act out of love for Christ give themselves to the service of others will live. . . .”

“We know that every effort to better society, especially when injustice and sin are so ingrained, is an effort that God blesses, that God wants, that God demands of us. . . . [W]e must try to purify these ideals, Christianize them, clothe them with the hope of what lies beyond. That makes them stronger, because it gives us the assurance that all that we cultivate on earth, if we nourish it with Christian hope, will never be a failure. We will find it in a purer form in that kingdom where our merit will be in the labor that we have done here on earth.”

“Dear brothers and sisters,” Romero continued, “let us all view these matters at this historic moment with that hope, that spirit of giving and sacrifice. Let us all do what we can. We can all do something . . . . We know that no one can go on forever, but those who have put into their work a sense of very great faith, of love of God, of hope among human beings, find it all results in the splendors of a crown that is the sure reward of those who labor thus, cultivating truth, justice, love, and goodness on the earth. Such labor does not remain here below, but purified by God’s Spirit, is harvested for our reward.”

“This . . . Eucharist is just such an act of faith. To Christian faith at this moment the voice of diatribe appears changed for the body of the Lord, who offered himself for the redemption of the world, and in this chalice the wine is transformed into the blood that was the price of salvation. May this body immolated and this blood sacrificed for humans nourish us also, so that we may give our body and our blood to suffering and to pain–like Christ, not for self, but to bring about justice and peace for our people.”

[1] Oscar Romero, The Violence of Love: The pastoral Wisdom of Oscar Romero at 242 (Harper & Row 1988); James Brockman, The Word Remains: A Life of Oscar Romero at 219-20 (Orbis Books 1982); Oscar Romero, Voice of the Voiceless: The Four Pastoral Letters and Other Statements at 191-93 (Orbis Books 1985); James Brockman, The Church Is All of You: Thoughts of Oscar Romero at 110 (Winton Press 1984).