A Vision For US

01-30-2022Pastor's LetterFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

When the MLK Holiday comes around I always like to read Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. It always blows me away. It is one of the greatest speeches in American history, right up there with Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. The part of the speech that struck me this year was this:

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

There is still much of King’s vision that has yet to bear fruit but unfortunately the trajectory of the current climate is leading to a distrust among people in our nation. Drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred is becoming the norm. And it has certainly born fruit in the divisiveness throughout our society.

The challenge for us is to hold on to Dr. King’s vision of human solidarity. He stated often that once whites recognized that their plight was bound to that of blacks things could begin to change for the better. And that is a very biblical message. Whenever we recognize that our plight is tied up with those who suffer we can see clearly to do the next right thing. The problem of course is that in world saturated by evil and divided by ideology, it’s easy to grasp on to the thing, the person, the theory that promises justice or inclusivity. But as history has so often demonstrated those human attempts only lead us so far and cannot help us cross the bridge towards a greater solidarity.

But Gospel Love can. When the Church demonstrates true neighbor-love and solidarity across the lines of race, gender or class then all those other human attempts, be it ideologies or theories or demagogues become unnecessary and are seen as failed attempts along the road to true human solidarity.

It seems many Christians today are reaching for the extremes that are being dangled in front of them as the only way forward. Be it Wokeness or Q-anon both have an us-them effect. We are set up as enemies to be overcome and not as friends to be won over. There is real evil afoot in our land. Remember the word diabolic means to scatter, to disintegrate while the word symbolic means to gather, to integrate. Another title used for our Creed is the Symbol of Faith. It is that Faith and only that Faith that can unite us, integrate us together and bind us as one.

Dr. King’s vision offers a different way forward, one that is in keeping with the Gospel. I realize today, many have said that his time is over, his way of doing things only took things so far on the road to justice and freedom and now it’s time to go another way. In fact, earlier in the summer I looked at the BLM website and when they ask the various chapters to list their heroes, nowhere did Dr. King’s name appear. That stunned me but it made sense in light of today’s culture, sadly.

Dr. King asked in his speech: “when can we be satisfied?” Well not until the demands of justice are satisfied or as he so eloquently put it: “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

Before you reach out and grasp hold of the latest “solution” that the culture is offering, especially political solutions, whether it comes from the right or the left, ask yourself is this in keeping with the Gospel, is this in keeping with Dr. King’s biblical vision of a society united by justice and freedom for all, a society that moves closer to human solidarity and not further from it?

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.