On this coming Monday, January, 16, 2023, we will honor a great American ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was 39 when he was martyred on April 4, 1968.
On that fateful day, Dr. King took an assassin’s bullet that he knew was waiting for him at any time. It came while he was leading a strike for sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. He inspired and led the Civil Rights movement that acquired great change in our land. This man is one of my mentors. I was in his presence only once in 1963 when I was in the seminary in Baltimore. Our Rector arranged for some of us to hear him speak when he came to Baltimore.
He was a man who committed himself to nonviolence like Mohandas Gandhi, and also Jesus my Lord who died on the Cross for us. Dr. King and I believe that nonviolent action is the only way that justice and peace can be achieved. Dr. King inspired ordinary folks, black and white, to stand up for their rights and to sit down and accept the vicious blows of police and others in their racial hatred. His organizers trained them to have the courage to go to jail for what they believed.
On, the day after his assassination on April 4, 1968, I formally entered the service of the Roman Catholic Church as an ordained deacon. I was a seminary student at the Theological College of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
The shrill sound of sirens all over the city mingled with the ancient chant melody of the Litany of the Saints as I lay prostrate on the floor of our chapel with my brothers to be ordained. As I looked up to this man and his ideals of justice and peace and freedom, I also wanted to absorb them into my body and soul, I took in a deep breath and pledged my life to Christ.
Today, in this land of America, the freedoms and ideals that Thomas Jefferson told us all men are created equal and have the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness are seriously in danger of slipping away from us. We witnessed the desecration of our Capitol.
Racism that was covert for centuries before it reared its ugly head and been condoned when it should have been severely condemned in Charlottesville, Virginia, the very home of Jefferson’s great University of Virginia, in the bombings of Jewish Synagogues, in Muslim Mosques and violence in El Paso deliberately against brown people, and the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing, in Uvalde, Texas and so many other school shootings across our country.
The number of race-based killings and other incidents in our country in the last two years has been astounding — some by officers of the law. It has taken our young people to lead the way to and advocate for real change against gun violence led by the courageous leaders from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
O God of Justice, raise up men and women in our day who will inspire us and restore us to the original ideals of our nation. Enable us to wake up from our slumber and see what we have lost, and safeguard our freedoms. Give us the strength and courage to pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor to win this spiritual revolution of justice, peace and love that now lies before us in 2023.
We also ask you bless President Joe Biden and all our elected officials, and our whole country that we may heal, come together and start anew in this new year of 2023. We pray to you, God, for You are the God who cries for justice for your children and who still hears the cries of those who know and realize they are poor without You. We pray–for only You can can restore us to the ideal of freedom and justice FOR ALL.
To You Glory and Honor and Power, now and forever. Amen!
May we call each other more than a generation later to the principles of Nonviolence Dr. King instilled in his followers.
They were trained to sit down on the ground and take blows of the police because they knew that Nonviolence was a more powerful weapon than guns and bombs.
Dr. King held no public office. He persuaded us by the power of his words and the depth of his conviction.
And his willingness to give his life for what he believed in ~ no matter what.
What areyou are willing to give your life for?
I continually ask myself the same question and pray the answer is Yes! (Or at least I hope so.)
It has been a generation since Dr. King delivered his most powerful and eloquent speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963 that led subsequently to President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act into law on June 2, 1964, I offer this video reflection from the History Channel on Dr. King’s “I have a Dream speech at the Lincoln Memorial, followed by some powerful excerpts from that speech. Click here.
Then follow with this excerpt from his speech. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
Fr Bob, I pray that Dr. King’s work lives on through his teachings and legacy. The sadness in this divided country has its roots in hate, something we are all responsible to extinguish through nonviolence and love. We require self reflection to see if any semblance of racism or hatred occupies our mind and thoughts, only then can we live in a more peaceful and verdant society.
Elmer, thank you for such a thoughtful note.Amen!