Wed 24th March 2010
I am here to attend and speak at the “Nurturing of the Prophetic Imagination” conference, hosted by Point Loma Nazarene University. This morning I spoke in their chapel service (to over 1000 students: yes, chapel is compulsory!), and have just returned from the studios of the local PBS (you can listen to the interview).
As I prepare for my opening remarks at the opening banquet of the conference this evening, I am again reminded of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was killed 30 years ago today (March 24, 1980). The story of Romero’s life, his ministry and advocacy on behalf of the poor and particularly his journey through the night to the little village parish of Aguilares, where he said mass for his friend Fr. Rutillio Grande (and the two others killed with him). It is this event more than any other that transformed the generally quiet and cautious cleric into the outspoken advocate of the poor and voiceless. He became a tireless prophet for a new future, yet Romero clearly understood that this new future always lies beyond us. The prayer/poem attributed to him captures well what the prophetic imagination is all about:
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.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of
saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession
brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives include everything.
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.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects
far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s
grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the
difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not
messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.