Dear friends, I'm speaking to you from El Salvador. I've been living and working here for ten years. And in the course of this time, El Salvador has become more and more the "Holy Land" for me, the "Holy Ground" on which I really came into contact with the drama of Jesus Christ. Last October, Oscar Romero was canonized. 40 years too late, the Catholic Church recognized what the ordinary people of El Salvador and all Latin America immediately understood: that in the life of Oscar Romero the whole drama of Jesus is present. He lived like Jesus, he acted like Jesus and therefore he was killed like Jesus.
This Sunday we are starting into the "Holy Week", accompanying Jesus on his way to the Cross and to his violent death. I think in this moment it is good to remember that this drama, this reality of Jesus, is present in the martyrs of El Salvador. These persons were characterized by great tenderness and sensitivity towards the vulnerable and humble people, they defended them. But they also had great courage to speak out against those who were moved by greed and egocentric interests. Therefore the ware disposed to oppress, to torture, to murder and to make people disappear.
But the passion and death of Jesus is not only present in those martyrs who lived, acted and were murdered like Jesus. The mystery of the Passion of Christ is also in all the little ones who had no chance to defend themselves. Behind me is a wall with sentences from interviews we made with victims of the current violence in El Salvador.
I think celebrating the Holy Week, in confrontation with the reality of this country, means preparing our hearts to be sensitive and empathetic hearts, ready to be wounded by the suffering of others. When we live in the First World, it is good to remember the suffering in our global world. We live in a world where six million people are on the run. They flee from hunger and violence. We live in a world where countless people suffer cruelly from the consequences of climate change, as in the tragedy in Mozambique. It is important for us to remember this suffering, to be sensitive and empathetic to it, in view of the fact that the north of our world is increasingly becoming a fortress: for example, on the southern border of the USA or when the Mediterranean Sea turns into a large cemetery for African people.
Celebrating the Passion of Jesus Christ means to continue our struggle to transform our world into a more human world. This has a political dimension. But it also means to be open, sensitive and touchable for the person who lives next to me. To be able to open our hearts, our ears, our eyes, to be able to hear and to see, to live the mysticism of the open eyes in the face of the suffering of others and to recognize in them the mystery of Jesus' suffering and cross.
Martha Zechmeister, CJ
Martha Zechmeister CJ is a member of the Congregation of Jesus (Congregatio Jesu). Born in Austria in 1956, she studied theology in Vienna, writing her doctoral thesis in 1985 and her habilitation thesis in 1977.
She has been professor of systematic theology at the Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas, San Salvador/El Salvador since 2008, serving as the director of the teología latinoamericana (Latin-American theology) master program since 2012.
She is also responsible for the “casa Dean Brackely,” a residence for scholarship students coming from extremely poor areas.
Prior to her work in El Salvador she was Professor for fundamental theology at the University of Passau, Germany from 1999 till 2008.
Her main areas of research and interest include political theology, Latin-American liberation theology, and Ignatian spirituality.
„Mystik und Sendung. Ignatius von Loyola erfährt
Gott“ (Mysticism and mission. Ignatius of Loyola´s experience of God), Würzburg 1986.
„Gottes-Nacht. Erich Przywaras Weg Negativer
Theologie“ (Night of God. Erich Prywara´s way of negative theology), Münster 2000.
Essays about religious life:
“Passion for God: Compassion for the other. The essence of religious life”, http://www.cori.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/conference-talk-by-martha.pdf
„The authority of those who suffer“, http://vd.pcn.net/en/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_details&gid=235&Itemid=12
The Secret of Romero: Passion for God and Com-passion for the Poor http://www.romerotrust.org.uk/sites/default/files/MarthaZechmeisterCJMarch2017SMITF.pdf
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