Today is Palm Sunday. The gospel reading is the long, sometimes interactive reading from the Gospel of Mark. It begins in Bethany, where a woman is anointing Jesus with expensive oil before he leaves for Jerusalem and his death. The woman’s action does not meet with favor by the onlookers, “and they scolded her.” But she does not stop.
This phrase, “and they scolded her,” resonated with me as I have been thinking, throughout this week, about Monsenor Oscar Romero. Romero, who was murdered for his faithful living 35 years ago on March 24, often was “scolded,” ridiculed, humiliated and threatened. But his heart was set on the kingdom of God and he was deeply aware of his own small part in it. This strengthened his conviction and kept him from getting lost or stuck in momentary personal attacks or adversity. The kingdom of God is united by love, and this was his driving force.
There is a film called “Monsenor: The last journey of Oscar Romero,” and I watched it this weekend. It is worth looking at in Lent, as it is a telling example of how Monsenor kept his eyes on that long view—-kept his “eyes on the prize,” as it says elsewhere in scripture and was pronounced by another visionary, Martin Luther King Jr.
It seems so hard to do. Yet, with prayer and mindfulness, it is possible to live as the woman in Mark’s gospel, as Romero, as King—-not getting sidetracked by scoldings, insults and setbacks but, rather, picking up that cross every day anew and shouldering it through the unfolding kingdom of God. This is so also when one is not the object of attack but is, perhaps, facing momentary obstacles or anxieties, or is surrounded by noise and commotion, or is uncertain how to resolve a personal or social problem.
A poem attributed to Romero, but actually written by a bishop named Ken Untener, expresses this. It is called “A future not our own” and says in part:
“It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision……
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……”