Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11; John 10:11-16
The events happening in many parts of the world show that violence is becoming the “new religion,” the only way! But today, as we always do every year, we gather to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, whose legacy continues to inspire and challenge us to build a more peaceful and just society.
On the night before he was assassinated, Dr. King told thousands of people at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee: “For years now, we have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can we just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence; it is nonviolence or nonexistence.” He laid out a methodology of nonviolence that still rings true. Martin Luther King, Jr., taught that active nonviolence begins with the vision of a reconciled humanity, the reign of God in our midst, that we are all equal sisters and brothers, all children of the God of peace, already reconciled, all one, all already united. For King, active nonviolence is much more than a tactic or a strategy; it is a way of life.
On the first World Day of Prayer for Peace celebrated on Jan. 1, 1968, Pope Paul VI wrote; “Peace is the only true direction of human progress--and not the tensions caused by ambitious nationalisms, nor conquests by violence, nor repressions which serve as mainstay for a false civil order.” Nearly 50 years later, Pope Francis points out in his own message that these words have lost none of their significance or urgency. “Violence is not the cure for our broken world,” the Holy Father states. He further reiterates that “countering violence with violence leads at best to forced migrations and enormous suffering, because vast amounts of resources are diverted to military ends and away from the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in our world.”
Although the prospect of peace, whether between nations or family members, may seem remote, we must never give up working toward it. What we do today reminds us and those we love and serve who we are: God’s holy family, brothers and sisters united in love, who recognize that all division, prejudice, and inequality must have no place in society. Martin Luther King, Jr., spent his entire life stating and repeating the words proclaimed in Holy Scripture: we are God’s children, created in His very image and likeness, united as brothers and sisters as one flock with Christ our Lord as our Shepherd, the One who laid down his life for each one of us. He called Christians back to the heart of the Gospel. He wanted people of faith and conscience to dig deep into the spiritual roots of nonviolence and join God’s nonviolent transformation of the world, for as St Paul tells the Colossians and all of us; “there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all”.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” Dr. King once said. May we make our holiday in remembrance of this prophet of our time more than just a “day off” from normal routine and see it as an opportunity to work for the common good, help build a just society, uphold the dignity of human life and lift up our vulnerable brothers and sisters.
May our prayer continue, may our witness endure and our hope never end as we strive to make Dr. King’s dream a reality.