The subversive Gospel

The Good News of Jesus undermines all our pretensions.

Jonah thought the Ninevites were incorrigible – after all they were Israel’s enemies. But he also feared that God would not strike them down as they deserved, because God is merciful.

The leaders of Jesus’ day asked for signs, looking for a God who would make things right with a quick miracle. But the Good News is a Jonah who provokes conversion in the hearts of the people of Nineveh.

Father Rutilio Grande, the Salvadoran Jesuit who was a good friend of Archbishop Oscar Romero, was martyred on March 12, 1977. His death moved Monseñor Romero to live more openly a commitment to preach and be Good News for the Poor.

Rutilio had been a very scrupulous seminarian whose sense of unworthiness was so overwhelming that he didn’t consider himself worthy to be ordained. But God chose him, strengthened him, and moved him to be a presence and a voice for the poor.

In a February 13, 1977 sermon at a gathering to protest the government’s expulsion of a priest, he stated:

I fear that if Jesus entered the country crossing the border in Chalatenango, they wouldn’t let him pass. There by Apopa they’d detain him…
They’d accuse him of being a revolutionary.

How is the Gospel revolutionary and subversive?

Another quote of Rutilio Grande suggests that Jesus’ message of inclusion and community – all as children of God seated around the table of the Lord – is subversive of our images of god:

“In the name of God,” or “Glory to God,” [people cry out].
But what God are they referring to?
Some make the sign of the cross: In the name of the father – money, of the son – coffee, and of the spirit – rather sugar cane.
That is not God, the Father of our brother and Lord Jesus who gave us a Good Spirit so that we might be brothers [and sisters] – equal, and that as real followers of Jesus we might work to make present here and now His Reign.

Rutilio’s God was not a god “sitting in a hammock in the clouds.”

He is a God who offers the sign of conversion of all, a God who walks among us, seeking out the poor and the sinners – and rejoicing when we all sit together at the banquet table of the Lord.

As the entrance hymn of the Salvadoran Mass puts it – echoing the words of Rutilio Grande:

Vamos todos al banquete
a la mesa de la creación,
cada cual con su taburete
tiene un puesto y una misión.

We are all going to the banquet,
to the table of creation,
each one on his stool
has a place and a mission.


This week is was announced that the Archdiocese of San Salvador is beginning an investigation into the life of Father Rutilio Grande to determine if they will initiate a process seeking his canonization. Yet he, like Monseñor Romero, is already a martyr and a saint in the lives and hearts of many people. 


2 responses to “The subversive Gospel

  1. As we approach the anniversary of Oscar Romero’s martyrdom, we thought you might enjoy our music video honoring the Archbishop. Go to More information may be found at

  2. Grace is getting what I don’t deserve.
    Mercy is not getting what I do deserve.
    Justice? Getting what I deserve, and not getting what I don’t deserve.
    Grace and mercy are blessings.
    Justice seems a blessing too.
    The greater the paradox, the more likely I am staring at a spiritual lesson…

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