Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.
Last week at the 11am Sunday Mass out of the corner of my eye, just based one those who I know, I counted people from 41 different nations! This is what the prophet Isaiah foresaw when he proclaimed: "Lord every nation on earth will adore You". It is only Christ Jesus who can break down the barriers that divide people and bring them together for a singleness of purpose.
This was the same vision that inspired Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. Fifty years ago he took that biblical vision of the prophets of Israel and helped us make it more of a reality. King, who took his vision from the biblical prophets and the Gospel, knew that the quest for justice could never be accomplished if it were detached from Judeo-Christian principles. Sadly, fifty years later many try to present him divorced from the biblical principles and Christian Faith that inspired him leaving us with a washed-out secular activist who was merely a dogooder. That was not King, that was not how he lived or what he died for.
On this 50th Anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech and the march on Washington, the commentary that rises to the top from pundits, talking heads and journalists seems to be saying that though we have changed a lot in our country there is still more work to do. Well true enough, every new generation of the human family will have to fight against its tribal instincts and put its biases, prejudices and at times outright hatred of people who are different aside. It is a problem that has dogged the human family since the beginning. Still many of those who are commenting on the 50th anniversary seem like scolds who forget how much we have really overcome.
And there are those who seem to find racism lurking just about everywhere. The way they insert racist motives when there is none belies the cause that Dr. King died for. They seem to have forgotten what real racism looks like. An elderly woman who has to give up her seat on a bus to a young white punk because she is black is racism. A school age child who cannot attend the same school as her white playmate because she is black is racist. A church that is burned down because its pastor is black is real racism. Being told you cannot drink out of the same fountain, or eat at the same counter as other people because of the color of your skin is racist.
The truth is our country has moved very far from those times. Though it may still be imperfect, the laws, policies and structures of our institutions provide for equal opportunity and provide for a system to make sure that remains in force. That is one of the things that Dr. King strove for and helped us achieve. We should be grateful.
And yes there is so much more to the "Dream". Dr. King's prayer was that one day his children would be judged by the content of their character not the color of their skin. And that is where in lies our biggest challenge. The moral decay of our culture has turned King's dream into a nightmare for so many communities and individuals. What would Dr. King say to the fact that the highest rates of abortion are among blacks, or that nearly 70% of black children are born out of wedlock or the unfathomable rate of black on black homicide, staggering rates of HIV and drug addiction? How does that square with the "content of character"? This is not just the fault of personal choice. No, for too long we have allowed the black community to bear the brunt of the social policies that our elitist rulers forge which are destructive of marriage, family, the educational system and the moral fabric of our country. Dr. King would be disheartened with the moral collapse of our society especially its deviation from biblical moral principles. However he would not be discouraged. He would, I believe take the problem on by insisting that individuals act responsibly and morally and not hide behind a defense of racism or victim-hood. But he would also call us to change the structures of our society that allow this behavior to flourish and restore a culture that upholds human dignity, decency and moral and ethical behavior.
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. unleashed the moral force of biblical justice and that has taken our society a long way to achieving equality and ridding itself of racial discrimination. It's time we once again unleash the moral force of the Gospel to renew the content of the character of individuals, families, communities and the nation. Then we will be keeping the Dream alive.
Love, Fr. John B.
PS: This week read MLK's "I have a Dream" speech but read it out loud as it was meant to be heard. Also his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" spells out his biblical and theological justification for his push for justice and is very appropriate for us today. Finally if you want to get a good taste of King's life, the movement he started read Ralph David Abernathy's "and the walls came tumbling down".BACK TO LIST