By Very Rev. Anthony B. Pizzo, O.S.A.
As we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we are reminded that we are always in process of building up the Kingdom of God or as King called it “the Beloved Community.” The Beloved Community is not some delusional dream of someone who refuses to accept the world as it is, but it is the ambitious dream of one who pushes the world as it should be to its limits. This ideal living of community incarnates the love and friendship of God demonstrated by accompanying one another and helping to carry the burden of the Cross. In the real world as we know it and see it, we are confronted with many issues that affect the well-being of the People of God, no matter who they are and where they come from. Comprehensive healthcare, safe streets, affordable housing, nutritious food, strong schools, access to jobs, and meaningful employment are necessary for the beloved community. In the world as it should be, prejudicial behavior has no place in this community.
King was a man who embodied the maxim of “if you’re not part of the solution then you remain part of the problem.” From the very beginning of his ministry and career as a pastor/activist, he had the courage to face and withstand adversity demonstrated by the injustices perpetrated against the vulnerable and oppressed people of society. After 50+ years of the struggle, we may find ourselves a few steps ahead, yet we still have a long way to go to realize the goal toward equal treatment between races, gender, religions, sexual orientation, etc.
King enjoyed quoting St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine. He found that both of these Catholic theologians spoke to the issues of their day and that is why he found their theology to be timely.
“Mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution and justice without mercy is cruelty” says Aquinas. King, on the other hand, took these words of Aquinas and expounded on them by saying: “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic.“ He goes on to qualify this expression in the following way: “Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”
One of King’s admirers is Pope Francis. He has quoted King various times in speeches and even in Amoris Laetitia. Just a few days before the last U.S. Presidential election, the Pope delivered a moving speech against the culture of fear. He said that instead of building walls, build bridges. He said that fear “weakens and destabilizes us, destroys our psychological and spiritual defenses, numbs us to the suffering of others. In the end,it makes us cruel…mercy is the best antidote against fear. It is much more effective than walls, than barbed wire fences, than alarms and arms, and it is free. It is the gift of God.”
Let us continue to pray for tolerance and peace!