Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily March 16.
We are gathered here today to worship the Lord as a community that now bears the name of St. Oscar Romero — a great man from our own times — and of course his witness builds on that of other great men and women who went before him.
Today’s readings invite us to reflect on some of the greatest men in the Bible: Abraham the great patriarch, Moses through whom God freed Israel from slavery, established the Covenant and gave us the Law, Elijah the great prophet, Peter the great apostle upon whom Jesus founded his Church and of course Jesus himself, who is both God and man, our Redeemer, our Savior and our Lord.
One thing all five of these great men have in common is that much of the time they didn’t seem all that great to most of their contemporaries. And if you have seen the movie “Romero” you know that the same was true for St. Oscar.
n In our first reading God promises to make of Abraham a great nation, his descendants more numerous than the stars. This promise eventually did come true but what people saw at the time was a childless old nomad.
n In today’s Gospel Moses and Elijah appear with such splendor that we can easily forget just how un-glorious they had seemed during much of their lifetime. Moses once killed a man and had to flee the country. He stuttered so badly that God had to get Aaron to speak for him. He had to face revolts (the Golden Calf), starvation (eventually remedied by Manna from heaven) and died before reaching the Promised Land.
n Elijah had to flee and hide in a ravine for several years after slitting the throats of 400 of Queen Jezebel’s pagan priests.
n In today’s Gospel Peter blathers on about three tents without knowing what he was saying. He was uneducated, fled when Jesus was arrested, denied him three times and died 30 years later crucified upside down to make his humiliation complete.
n Jesus had only the clothes on his back and hung around with disreputable people — prostitutes, tax collectors. He had powerful enemies but only fair-weather friends who abandoned him. He was tortured, mocked, whipped, spit upon, crowned with thorns, stripped of his clothes, displayed naked to increase the shame, and died the agonizing death of a convicted criminal.
None of these five greatest men looked very glorious at the time and neither did St. Oscar Romero, yet it was precisely through their humility and weakness that God’s glory and power shined.
Only God could produce a nation from a man with a fertility problem. Only God would have the crazy wisdom to choose as his messenger a man with a speech impediment and give us his Law through a fugitive murderer. Only God would think to found his Church on a coward who would deny Christ in his moment of greatest need. Only God could love us so much that he sacrificed his only Son so that we could be saved.
Only God could take the cross, a brutal instrument of torture, humiliation and injustice and use it to break the power of evil and death, transforming it into the most powerful instrument of freedom and sign of self-sacrificing love in all human history.
That great transformation was prefigured by the transfiguration in today’s Gospel, a fleeting glimpse of the glory of God at work in Jesus, who won’t seem that glorious again until the day of his resurrection.
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