Bishop Olson calls for "courageous love and sacrificial non-violence" at annual diocesan MLK Mass
ARLINGTON — With racial tension, political discord, and differing views on criminal justice dividing society, what would Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. think of today’s America?
It’s a question often raised as the country celebrates a national holiday, named in honor of the slain civil rights activist, on the third Monday in January.
Three quotes by King mention faith, hope, and love.
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
“We must accept finite disappointments, but never lose infinite hope.
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
Martin Luther King Jr. might be upset that more progress hasn’t been made in the area of social justice, but the leader of the Montgomery bus boycott also would want people to remember his fight for equality and human rights included everyone.
Just like some modern-day examples cited by a representative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: Joe Rubio, Valley Interfaith Project organizer for immigration reform. Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities Rio Grande Valley, who assists migrants on the Texas border. And Ogechi Akalegbere, recipient of the Cardinal Bernadine New Leadership Award for her efforts teaching low-income and immigrant parents how to advocate for their children’s education.
North Texas parishioners involved in ministries helping the poor and underserved gathered January 22 inside St. Vincent de Paul Church for the 36th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Diocesan Memorial Mass concelebrated by Bishop Michael Olson and Father Philip Brembah, pastor of the Arlington parish. Gospel hymns, sung by members of Our Mother of Mercy, Nolan Catholic High School, and the St. Joseph choirs, enhanced the liturgy.
Leading the entrance procession were the Knights and Ladies Auxiliary of St. Peter Claver — the largest and oldest African-American fraternal order in the U.S. The organization’s national leadership tries to follow Martin Luther King’s example by sponsoring forums on racism, human trafficking, and right to life issues.
Locally, Council #89 hosts a golf tournament to fund its scholarship program, assisted 37 families last year through a Thanksgiving Basket Project, and helped stamp out hunger in the community with an annual canned food drive. When Hurricane Ida made landfall on August 29, 2021, in Louisiana, causing immense damage to parishes in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, the Knights and Ladies of Council #89 raised money for the relief effort.
“We have Claver compassion,” remarked Michael Barks, Grand Knight of Council #89. “At every opportunity we give to our neighbors, our friends. Everything we do exemplifies Martin Luther King’s message of brotherhood.”
In his homily, Bishop Olson reminded worshippers, “Without God, we cannot be attentive to our neighbor as our brother and sister. Without God, we cannot have the courage to change and break the cycle of sin, injustice, and dehumanizing racism.”
A Baptist minister, MLK knew that and called men and women to a conversion centered in Christ.
“He called us and showed us how to face the evils of injustice and racism with courageous love and sacrificial non-violence,” the bishop pointed out.
Martin Luther King advocated for the use of “Christian methods and Christian weapons” in the struggle for equal rights, asking his followers to “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.”
At the close of the Mass, Bishop Olson offered reassurance to the congregation.
“In the midst of all this fear, anger, discord, violence, and dishonesty, God is there,” he said encouragingly. “He calls us together, and with the gifts of the Holy Spirit we received at our Baptism, He opens our eyes; He opens our ears; and He loosens our tongue for the words of the Gospel. Let us pray more now than ever for the gift of God’s peace.”
His words resonated with Philomena Ikowe, a native of Nigeria. The St. Joseph parishioner shares daily prayers and Gospel reflections with friends and family.
“Martin Luther King showed a light on what justice and peace is like. He was an amazing man and an inspiration to all of us,” Ikowe commented.
Many in her homeland are unfamiliar with MLK so she shares his story with her social media audience hoping they learn from his legacy.
“It’s important for us to pray especially now when the world is so divided,” she added. “We need peace, love, and unity today.”
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Bishop Olson's homily for this Mass can be found on his blog, fortworthbishop.org