Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me. (Matthew 28:10)
Why Galilee? If God’s Son could have been born in any time and place, what is the significance of his taking flesh as a Galilean Jew? What light does Jesus’ Galilean identity shed on our understanding of his public ministry, table fellowship, and eventual passion, death, and resurrection? (Commentary on Virgilio Elizondo’s writings by Timothy Matovina)
In the final session of our program on liberation theology and spirituality, we move from El Salvador in the 1980’s (Ignacio Ellacuría, Óscar Romero, and others) to present day Mexico and the Southwest United States. (Note. As anticipated, on May 19 Pope Francis announced that Blessed Óscar Romero will be canonized in Rome on October 14, 2018.) The theme is “Faith, Politics, and Discipleship.” As in the two previous sessions, we viewed a lecture by Michael E. Lee from his DVD series called “Introduction to Liberation Theology.”
Our pivotal figure is Virgilio Elizondo (1935 – 2016). Born in San Antonio, Texas, of Mexican parents, Fr. Virgilio is regarded by many as the “father of U. S. Latino theology”. He joined the teaching faculty of the University of Notre Dame in 1999, yet he continued to serve his parish in San Antonio, commuting on weekends. Fr. Virgilio’s writings focus on the historical process that formed Mexican Americans into a mestizo people. He challenged the notion that unity can be realized only through uniformity. He was the first U. S. Latino theologian to write extensively on Guadalupe, exploring the core meanings of the fervent devotion to her.
His most acclaimed book, Galilean Journey: The Mexican-American Promise (1983), addresses the main questions posed at the start of this post. The book explores the meaning behind the emphasis in the Gospels of Jesus’ origins as a Jew from the borderlands of Galilee. In his writings, Fr. Virgilio deepens our understanding of Scripture in the context of those who live “in the borderlands” – crossing from one culture to another while not belonging wholly to one or the other.
I had the honor and privilege of meeting Virgilio Elizondo in November 2012. When attending a conference in the College of Engineering at the University of Notre Dame, I arrived a day early in order to visit the Theology Department. I had attended a seminar with Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez the previous July and was hoping to greet him again. He was away on the day I was at Notre Dame. However, the Theology Department had organized an entire day of activities for me, hosted by Virgilio Elizondo and Timothy Matovina. They took me to lunch, invited me to sit in on their classes, and gave me signed copies of their books. They were warm and gracious; I was overwhelmed with the generosity of their time. Later, I sat in on a graduate seminar led by Daniel G. Groody, CSC, a professor of theology and global affairs who focuses on international migration and refugee issues.
Quoting Fr. Virgilio on the importance of one’s context in reading Scripture:
Our social situation gives us a unique perspective, and when we come together in communion and dialogue, the perspectives of each enriches the entire church. It is not a question of placing one theology against another, but of bringing them together as various beautiful pieces of one mosaic.
Q. How do liberation theologies inform our own faith and discipleship?
Again, quoting Fr. Virgilio:
These movements are not asking for revolutions, but for the conversion of all: of the poor from their passive and silent suffering, of the dominant from their arrogance and blindness. The call of our society’s victims is like the call of Jesus to the rich young man. God is speaking to all of us through the cries of today’s suffering servants. Will we listen?
I highly recommend Vigilio Elizondo: Spiritual Writings, compiled and edited by Timothy Matovina (Orbis, 2010).