Kingdom and Glory

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MLK  Day is not a day for warm or fuzzy remembrances of a man who once gave an inspirational speech; rather, it is a day in remembrance of a man who was tormented, jailed, and ultimately killed for having the audacity to profess and advocate for basic principles of human decency, for an authentic commitment to the Christian values on which America purports to be built, and for a refusal to passively allow injustice to persist. It is a day on which we should all take stock and consider the ways in which we might be failing to live up to the ideals of active resistance in the fight to end systematic oppression.

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The Reverend did not condone the color-blind rhetoric we employ today as a means of avoiding discomfort; rather, he embraced the call to be an active participant in the society in which we live, identifying and responding to institutionalized (and therefore persistent) forms of injustice, wherever they are found and without regard for attempts made as a means of veiling underlying prejudices or unequal outcomes trough layers of rhetoric, policy, and government programming.

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He remained focused and committed to this goal, undistracted and undeterred by the naysayers and fear-mongers who besmirched his name, resisted his work, and levied hatred against this man who challenged their world order. Yet he did all of this without being afraid to reach across the aisle. This is the fundamental call of the Christian: to be honest and reflective, to not shy away from uncomfortable truths and realities, to be alert and consistent in our engagement of the injustice that is endemic to human society, to respond, to stand with the oppressed, and to do what we can to bring about a more perfect Union as a means of seeing God’s Kingdom come here on earth. We must do this all while surrendering to an all-encompassing Love, the eternal Truth, and the charge of a life lived in self-emptying sacrifice for the good of our neighbors.

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The notion that racism, as well as other forms of injustice, has ceased, is not only false but dangerous in its yield to notions that our work is done, that we might rest, that we have no further need to fight such oppression – notions that are antithetical to the call of the Gospel. May each of us take stock today and reflect on the ways we might better participate in bringing this dream, this heavenly vision, to fruition in both our lives and our communities. Amen.

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Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.

And I don’t mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I’m happy, tonight.

I’m not worried about anything.

I’m not fearing any man!

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!

-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Complacency and covetousness; Joy and hope.

73d2715b85494e32ab954d2e76023a36A priest friend of mine recently counseled me, saying that, to be a Catholic young man in the world, I should listen more, pray more, and let my actions speak on my behalf. While that’s still a work-in-progress, over the past year, I’ve certainly learned enough to know I don’t know that much. I’ve come to know I have so much more to learn, which is why it probably seems this has become a place of me sharing the mind of others, rather than the ramblings of a boy so foolish as to be wise in his own estimations. That’s not to say I won’t chime in here and there, but I am indeed working on listening more — to leaders in both thought and example, from the Most Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to the marvelous Maya Angelou to the Argentinian man close to my heart, Papa Francisco. So today I brought myself to finally enter into Evangelii Gaudium (or, “The Joy of the Gospel”) — which is something we call an “apostolic exhortation” in the Church — and which has been sitting on my bookshelf for far too long.

Though I’m sure so many more worthy passages will follow, I was struck by the simplicity and yet profound perceptivity contained within the work’s opening pages, so I thought I’d share it here with anyone who might happen to stumble upon it.

In times like these, I find it ever more important to listen to the voice and life of leaders such as these — even if it requires us coming outside of ourselves and straining to hear over the din of a dysfunctional world as heralded by angry partisans. Dare to be bold. Dare to hold onto the promise of Christ, that we may be anchored through all tribulations — that our souls might rest on God’s Truth, which endures to the end.

I hope this finds you in both health and peace, friends. Cheers!

The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ.
I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord.” The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms.
Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”. How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. Christ, who told us to forgive one another “seventy times seven” (Mt 18:22) has given us his example: he has forgiven us seventy times seven. Time and time again he bears us on his shoulders.
No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew. Let us not flee from the resurrection of Jesus, let us never give up, come what will. May nothing inspire more than his life, which impels us onwards!
(Evangelii Gaudium, pp. 1-2)