Bob McKeon


April 19, 2010

On Good Friday, I was part of the 30th annual Outdoor Way of the Cross in inner city Edmonton. Several hundred people of all ages and backgrounds participated in this annual ecumenical event. People make the connection between Jesus' unjust arrest, torture and execution on the first Good Friday, and the different ways people today experience pain and suffering and early death in the face of injustices in our time.

Jesus' death on Good Friday was not the final word. It led to the resurrection event of Easter Sunday where life conquers death, good conquers evil and hope conquers despair.

Each stop on the Outdoor Way of the Cross in inner city Edmonton addresses one area of life where people experience suffering, brokenness and injustice. This year the stops included sites linked to the issues of poverty, homelessness and health.

However, at each stop when presenters spoke of suffering and pain in today's world, they also spoke of sources of hope and new life. Living in a post-resurrection age, the Spirit of God is active in the inner city and throughout the world bringing new life and hope in the midst of visible sin and brokenness. This could be seen this year in the theme Be Bold in Our Hope.


The highlight this year took place in front of The Haven, a residence for recently-arrived refugees and immigrants run by The Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers. Many of the residents of The Haven have had to flee their homelands in the face of injustice and oppression.

This presentation was led by members of CEBES, a base Christian community organization of Salvadorians who now live in Edmonton. They recited the words of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated 30 years ago by the Salvadorian military government. Romero's words of prophetic preaching and his life witness still speak powerfully today to people from El Salvador, but also to Christians from countries around the world.

Romero took the words of Jesus in the Gospels seriously in his own life, and through his preaching challenged all who heard his words to do the same. In the face of widespread injustice and persecution of his time, he remained fearless. He proclaimed a message of bold hope: "Even if I am killed, I will continue to live through the Salvadorian people."


I doubt that when Romero said this he was thinking that this could include his words being proclaimed through a loud speaker on the streets of an inner city neighbourhood in Edmonton 30 years later. Romero worked hard to discern the signs of the times, reflecting on what God was calling him to do in the specific "here" and "now" of his community and country.

For Romero, the "joy and hope, and grief and anguish" (Gaudium et Spes, 1) of those who were poor and most at risk in his time were a central part of his discernment of the "signs of the times."

The Edmonton presenter repeated Romero's words calling for all in the Church "to become God's microphone" proclaiming the Gospel message of love and social justice within our community and world. We need to discern the signs of the times for our situation today.

As I listened to these words in front of The Haven, I was immediately connected to the continuing situations of violence and injustices in many countries from which refugees living in The Haven were forced to flee.


We are fortunate in Canada to have an organization like Development and Peace and its Share Lent campaign, so that we can participate directly in its solidarity work, and make a difference in the lives of people around the world.

These words of Romero also carry through to the struggles of those who are poor and homeless in my own neighbourhood and city.

At the final stop of the Outdoor Way of the Cross, the Passion from the Gospel of Mark was proclaimed. Significantly, this reading took place in the parking lot of the recently closed York Hotel, an inner city bar known for violence and social harm.

This site will soon become part of the new Boyle Renaissance Project promising affordable housing for families and singles, a new community centre, an urban aboriginal centre and other needed facilities.