Weekly Bulletin Column
From Fr. Michael Reding
January 17, 2021
The Most Durable Power… Again
Last June, in the midst of widespread unrest, I shared with you this essay written by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was first published on June 5, 1957 in Christian Century. It was originally part of a sermon Dr. King preached on November 6, 1956 at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. It was relevant in 1956. It was relevant last summer. And it remains relevant in this moment. On this Martin Luther King Day weekend, I pray that we’ll all learn from his wisdom:
Always be sure that you struggle with Christian methods and Christian weapons. Never succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter. As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love. Let no [one] pull you so low as to hate [them]. Always avoid violence. If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in your struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and your chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos.
In your struggle for justice, let your oppressor know that you are not attempting to defeat or humiliate [them], or even to pay [them] back for injustices that [they have] heaped upon you. Let [them] know that you are merely seeking justice for [them] as well as yourself. Let [them] know that the festering sore of segregation debilitates [white people] as well as [black people]. With this attitude you will be able to keep your struggle on high Christian standards.
Many persons will realize the urgency of seeking to eradicate the evil of segregation. There will be many [black people] who will devote their lives to the cause of freedom. There will be many [other people] of good will and strong moral sensitivity who will dare to take a stand for justice. Honesty impels me to admit that such a stand will require willingness to suffer and sacrifice. So don’t despair if you are condemned and persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Whenever you take a stand for truth and justice, you are liable to scorn. Often you will be called an impractical idealist or a dangerous radical. Sometimes it might mean going to jail. If such is the case, you must honorably grace the jail with your presence. It might even mean physical death. But if physical death is the price that some must pay to free their children from a permanent life of psychological death, then nothing could be more Christian.
I still believe that standing up for the truth of God is the greatest thing in the world. This is the end of life. The end of life is not to be happy. The end of life is not to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. The end of life is to do the will of God, come what may.
I still believe that love is the most durable power in the world. Over the centuries [people] have sought to discover the highest good. This has been the chief quest of ethical philosophy. This was one of the big questions of Greek philosophy. The Epicureans and the Stoics sought to answer it; Plato and Aristotle sought to answer it. What is the summum bonum of life? I think I have discovered the highest good. It is love. This principle stands at the center of the cosmos. As John says, “God is love.” [The one] who loves is a participant in the being of God. [The one] who hates does not know God.
Thanks to all of you who have reached out to offer your condolences, your support, and your prayers following the death of my brother, Tom. With the other demands of these days, I haven’t been able to respond to each of you personally, but I hope you’ll know of my profound gratitude.
In the seven years I’ve been at Saint Thomas the Apostle, I have experienced the death of three brothers and my dad. And each time, you have been there to hold me up in prayer and in care. More than I can possibly say: Thank you.