“To each one of us Christ is saying:
If you want your life and mission to be fruitful like mine, do as I.
Be converted into a seed that lets itself be buried.
Let yourself be killed.
Do not be afraid.”
– Oscar Romero
Yesterday marked the thirty third anniversary of the death of Oscar Romero, a martyr of the Salvadoran church whose life and words have transformed my understanding of discipleship. Romero lived as the voice of the people for the three years that he served as archbishop, fearlessly denouncing violence of all forms. He confronted military and guerrilla forces in his sermons. He also saw the face of God in the poor, for those who are crucified also live in the risen Lord.
Romero’s teachings were embodied in his humble, simple lifestyle. He lived in a room the size of my childhood bedroom, adjacent to a hospice for dying cancer patients in San Salvador. He spent his day meeting with his people, beginning with hospice patients. His life reflected his dedication to be an evangelizer of the people in his teaching and relationships.
But most importantly, Romero followed Christ without fear. On the day that he was killed, he knew that death threats were upon him. His counsel pleaded with him to not conduct the mass for his friend’s mother. But he knew his purpose to preach God’s word. Eight days before his death, he spoke these words:
“Martyrdom is a grace that I cannot think to deserve, but if God accepts the sacrifice of my life, may my blood be the seed of liberty and the signal that hope will become a reality.”
As I prepare for Easter this week, I remember that we remember Jesus’ death and resurrection in conjunction with the coming of the Spring. I remember that Christ’s crucifixion and redemption is the reality in all Creation. As spoken by Oscar Romero,we must bury ourselves as seeds to be nourished into new life.
What does it mean to be converted to a seed in order to be fruitful? I think upon my past week of Davidson classes that have partially answered this question from multiple perspectives. In psychology, I have learned that all humans have an innate need for affiliation and achievement. When I returned to Davidson, I became acutely aware of these two needs driving me to seek identity and affirmation in my academic skills or reputation. I was driven by the fear that I needed to prove myself in order to be worthy and deserving of love.
Then, in Buddhism, I learned that this fear creates attachments and motivations that defiles my awareness of reality. I become trapped in my egoistic desires. When I try to exert control, I forget that everything exists in an interdependent reality. I cannot see that God’s love is the reality that I move, breathe, and exist within.
Finally, I come to Prophetic Christianity America, where I learned that my selfish fear of insecurity ultimately lead to violence. Only when I recognize my selfish interest can violence be slain, or else I unconsciously harm myself and others. The only way to be converted into a disciple of Christ is to live with a heart of contrition and gratitude. I must repent that I meed my own needs independently of God, and I must be grateful that God alone fills my needs.
God alone has already accomplished everything we can long for; God is the source of love and creativity, compassion and redemption, in this universe. God alone gives us our identity as part of His magnificent creation – connected by our bodies to all the universe. God alone can cast out all of our fears so we may live by the mind of Christ.
The wisdom that I received in Quaker meeting is this:
Surrender your needs. Let them become seeds that God alone may till. Let yourself be killed. Do not fear.
In my life at Davidson, I realize that the purpose of my education is not to fill my need for a degree or to achieve “success.” Rather, it is an opportunity to ask deeper questions. To connect to community and relationships based on God’s love. To learn for the betterment of all beings, and not for my own merit. To take risks, abandon my comfort zone, and also take care of myself. To never conform to social norms or the success drive, but to surrender to my calling. I am here to be converted as I learn, renewed by the mind of Christ each and every day. May this calling to deeper questions guide me through this educational and spiritual journey.
I close with this invitation of Oscar Romero, which will guide my prayers through this holy season in the Christian year.
“We must learn this invitation of Christ:
‘Those who wish to come after me must renounce themselves.
Let them renounce themselves,
renounce their comforts,
renounce their personal opinions,
and follow only the mind of Christ,
which can lead us to death
but will surely also lead us