On March 12, 1977, the Jesuit pastor of the church in Aguilares, El Salvador, was killed together with a young boy and an older man. Father Rutilio Grande had been a friend of the newly-name archbishop for several years. Grande’s death had a significant impact on that archbishop, Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero.
A little more than two months later, on May 19, 1977, Salvadoran government forces raided the city of Aguilares. Three Jesuit priests were arrested and expelled from the country. At least fifty people were killed, including a boy who was running up the steps of the church bell tower to ring the bell to alert the people of the city.
The Salvadoran military occupied the church for about a month; they opened the tabernacle and desecrated the hosts; they would not let even a military chaplain enter the church to retrieve the Eucharist.
Finally, on June 19, Monseñor Romero with several priests came to take back the church and install a new pastor and three women religious to help him.
In his sermon Romero made a strong connection between the suffering of the people of Aguilares with the suffering of Christ.
You are the image of God who has been pierced, which the first reading [Zechariah 12: 10-11] speaks of in prophetic words of mystery, but which present to us Christ nailed to the cross and pierced through by a lance. He is the image of all the peoples who, like Aguilares, will be pierced and insulted. But, if one suffers with faith and gives it a redemptive meaning, Aguilares is singing the precious chorus of liberation, because when they look at Him whom they have pierced, they will repent and see the heroism and the joy of those whom the Lord blesses in their sorrow.
The suffering of this world show us Christ crucified.
It is difficult to look upon the suffering – whether in Sudan, Syria, the Central African Republic, Honduras, or in the cities of the US.
But when we look with love on those who are pierced, Christ is offering us the opportunity to repent, to be in solidarity with those who are suffering – as Christ Jesus himself made himself one with all those who suffer and are in need.