My Culture

Jesus, MLK, and the Ongoing Cry for Justice

I have been living in or around DC for about eleven years now, and I’ve always frequented the city. I think one of the most overlooked gifts of living here is being so close to such important buildings. I can literally walk a few blocks over to the building where the most powerful judges in the country work or wander a few blocks over from there to see where the senators representing me are, and, of course, even see the place where one of the most powerful presidents in the world lives and works. It is truly mind-blowing sometimes when you are walking around, and you realize where you are. It indeed is something inspiring.

In that same neighborhood, there are incredible museums full of history and fascinating information. Then there’s the central station for buses traveling short distances, and trains traveling very far away, and impressive monuments and memorials to some of our fallen heroes and great leaders. Among these is my personal favorite, Abraham Lincoln’s Memorial. This memorial is especially breathtaking at night. Once everything goes dark and the only lights on illuminate the memorial itself, it is a sight to behold. You can see the moon so clearly over the reflecting pool as you stare at Washington Monument.

As you walk on those steps, right around the middle, you can see the plaque commemorating the great “I Have a Dream” speech delivered from that very spot by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963.

The speech given by Dr. King, Jr. is commemorated and kept alive through the history of our country. Now more than ever we see that the cry for justice in our society often turns back to look at that speech for comfort and guidance.

During one of the most unjust times in the history of our country, Dr. King, Jr. himself spoke about the problem of racism, “Instead of honoring [the Sacred obligation to inalienable rights], America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds’.”

We Still Cry for Justice

Though we have made great strides towards a more just world since Dr. King delivered his most well-known speech, we’d be fools to believe that we have completely and totally eradicated this evil from our world. We have lived through our fair share of police brutality, we have seen innocent black men and women completely disrespected because of the color of their skin, and we have experienced many systems that are set up so one race is always ahead of the other. So how do we deal with this cry for justice?

Christ calls us to remember that the cry for justice has been an ongoing cry. Christ Himself, as a child to a young teenager and her soon-to-be-husband, faced the reality of injustice. So much so that the Holy Family had to flee, simply to have a right to life. That same Christ grew up only to be crucified for sins He did not commit. That same Christ is present in every homeless person that is ignored by our government. That same Christ is present in the unborn child that does not have a chance to experience life. That same Christ is present in the black man or woman who is deprived of an opportunity based on their skin color. That same Christ is present in every single act of injustice we live through every day (Matthew 25: 31-46).

So, what can you do?

Celebrate the holiday. As the Martin Luther King holiday is closing in, I invite you to celebrate it. More than that, commemorate it. I don’t mean just take a day off and pray for justice to be restored. Sure, that’s a start. But you are called to more. Commemorating means to recall and show respect for someone or something. The holiday commemorates the life of a man who did not rest, a man who gave the ultimate sacrifice to see justice in this world. So too, you are called to do something, to make a difference to bring justice to your community.

Start by informing yourself. Read about our Catholic stand on racism. Learn about our country’s history on racism. Then pray and discern how you can use your faith to make a change in our history. Visit a homeless shelter and serve those who have nothing. Visit a prison and talk to the people there. Volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center. Donate items you don’t need to people who don’t have anything. Spend some time with people who are often forgotten like the sick at a hospital, the elder at hospices, the physically or developmentally disabled at different institutions. And these are only some ways that you can take a stand for justice. Because like Martin Luther King Jr., we too “…refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.” We are reminded that Christ lived and died for us centuries ago, yet He is just as present in each and every one of us to this day. For that reason we are called to live out our Catholic mission by loving one another and loving our neighbor like Christ has loved us.

Fighting for justice will never be an easy battle. We have learned that from Christ, to the disciples, to Abraham Lincoln, to Martin Luther King, to many Catholic saints. Yet people like you and I keep trying to fight for it.

…why?

Because like all those who fought with everything they had before us, you and I are called to more than what this world may want us to settle for. So don’t give up fighting for justice. We are the Body of Christ after all; when one of us hurts, the whole body does too” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Remember it’s an ongoing cry for a reason. Because we won’t be satisfied until every son and daughter of God can truly attain the justice the Maker of Heaven has set out for us. Only when we have fully freed ourselves from injustice will we all be able to rejoice and together say, “Free at last, Free at last, Great God a-mighty, We are free at last.”

About the Author

Juan Aznaran

I think one of toughest things in life is being sarcastic and Catholic, so I am still trying to find the perfect balance. I am a die-hard Patriots fan despite people’s nice comments. I’m either listening to music, playing video games, hanging out with friends, playing with my puppy (Loki), watching New Girl or Friends, or all of the above. I have not figured out exactly what it means to be a man of God, but I have learned that real men do not stand, they kneel.