Lent calendar prayer and reflection for 24 March

A colourful folk artwork of Blessed Oscar Romero

A colourful mural of Blessed Oscar Romero painted by young people in El Salvador

Which is the first of all the commandments?

Mark 12:28-34

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus prioritises the commandments saying, first love God, and second, love your neighbour. “There is no commandment greater than these.”

Today is designated by the UN as International Day For The Right To The Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations And For The Dignity Of Victims. 

It commemorates the murder of Blessed Oscar Arnulfo Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador who was killed at the altar on 24 March 1980 whilst celebrating Mass. He was proclaimed a martyr in 2015 – killed out of hatred for the faith – because his love for God and for neighbour would not permit him to stay silent when confronted with the injustices of poverty and violent oppression of the poor in El Salvador.

During his three years as archbishop, from 1977 to 1980, he did not waver in denouncing the human rights abuses he was witnessing. He spoke out always from a strong theological base, and informed by his daily contact with the people. Sadly, following his death the violence escalated into a civil war that would eventually claim the lives of 70,000 people. 

Living life with meaning

Peace accords were signed 25 years ago, but many people in El Salvador continue living with the pain of losing their loved ones. Miriam was shot in a massacre in 1981. She survived, but she lost many relatives during the war. “They killed 50 members of my family. Every day they are with me. Every time I go to where my sister died, I talk to her and ask her to give me strength because she died in hope. She left an 11 month old son who is now a grown man.” Miriam has found a way to understand her own survival: “God gave me a life to live with meaning. If you do nothing with your life, your life serves no purpose. I am committed to God and these martyrs who died valiantly.” 

So Miriam in her way lives out these two great commandments: “God gave me my life back so now I have to work for the families of the victims.” She quietly labours to ensure those who died in the civil war are not forgotten, and those who survive may receive the benefits available to them as war-wounded. She is involved in exhumations of massacre sites, so that remains of victims can be returned to their next of kin, and the crime against them scientifically documented. On the 24th of every month, she organises a commemorative event for the victims in her municipality. “There is a whole lot of work to be done. There is so much pain and deep love.”

Pray for peace

Loving God, today we remember the many people killed or displaced by conflicts around the world. Knowing that peace is not simply the absence of fighting, we pray for the survivors of conflicts and for those working to ensure that truth and justice may be the foundations for lasting peace and reconciliation. Amen.

Act

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This reflection was written by Tania Dalton from CAFOD’s Latin America team.

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