TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna

Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna.

These are the words, commencing Holy Week at the beginning of the Palm Sunday liturgy. I always find this week to be a challenging one, as we journey with Jesus to his death and then to his resurrection. Within a week of his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, he will be tortured and crucified.

I am writing this message on Sunday 24 March, the date in 1980, on which Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador, was assassinated while celebrating Mass. At the time of his appointment, it was not anticipated that he would disturb the status quo of the government of the time. He was thought to be a conservative and a man of books. However, priests and people in El Salvador were being kidnapped, tortured, and murdered. In 1977, Romero was deeply affected by the murder of his friend and fellow priest, Rutilio Grande, and thereafter he became an outspoken critic of the military government of El Salvador.

When I was a teacher, as part of the Year 10 Social Justice unit in Religious Education, I recall showing the students a movie about him and the unjust conditions of those who lived particularly in El Salvador, but also in most of South America. Many of the conditions that existed over 40 years ago, still exist on that continent, with a significant divide between the rich and the poor. Archbishop Romero spoke out against social injustice and violence. His message was one of aligning with the poor and marginalized.

His sermons were broadcast, ordering Salvadoran soldiers as Christians, to obey God’s higher order and to stop carrying out the government’s repression and violations of basic human rights. He was declared a martyr in 2015 and canonized on 14 October 2019 by Pope Francis

I am sharing this with you because when I came to the diocese in 2005, the prayer attributed to Oscar Romero was used in many synod assemblies, gatherings and writings. I thought it appropriate to use it as part of this week’s message, and as part of our Holy Week reflection. 

However, it should be noted that the prayer was actually composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Cardinal John Dearden in November 1979 for a celebration of departed priests.

The Romero Prayer

It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view.

The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts; it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.

Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.  No prayer fully expresses our faith.  No confession brings perfection.  No pastoral visit brings wholeness.  No program accomplishes the church’s mission.  No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.  We water the seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.  We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.  This enables us to do something and to do it well.  It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.  We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.

As the time for me to finish in my role comes closer, I think this prayer reflects our work together as a diocesan community, over the past 20 years. We have continued to lay the foundations, to water the seeds and to provide yeast. We have, collectively, been good and faithful servants in building the Kingdom of God in this place.

This brings me to the words at the beginning of today’s First Reading (Isaiah 50:4-7):

The Lord has given me a disciple’s tongue. So that I may know how to reply to the wearied he provides me with speech. Each morning he wakes me to hear, to listen like a disciple. The Lord has opened my ear.

We are continually invited to speak and to listen, to be a disciple.

I am hoping that you noticed the bookends of Mark’s passion as it was proclaimed. It begins with the anointing of Jesus by a woman in the house of Simon the leper. Jesus’ response to those who disapproved was:

“Leave her alone. Why are you upsetting her? What she has done for me is one of the good works. You have the poor with you always and you can be kind to them whenever you wish, but you will not always have me. She has done what was in her power to do; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. I tell you solemnly, wherever throughout all the world the Good News is proclaimed, what she has done will be told also, in remembrance of her.”

Mark’s passion narrative ends with the women, who looked after Jesus, watching from a distance, along with many other women. These women took note of where Jesus was laid by Joseph of Arimathaea, who wrapped Jesus in a shroud and laid him in a tomb.

We are called to act with justice, we are called to love tenderly, we are called to serve one another and to walk humbly with God.

Walking with you on our journey to Easter.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.