Anniversaries call to mind struggle for justice

Like the swelling Mississippi River which is fed by many tributaries and sizeable rivers, during the month of January each year the quest for liberty and justice for all in our society is fed by key anniversaries and ever pressing reality.
This past weekend marked the 48th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and today and this weekend the 43 anniversary of Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court decision that permits abortion on demand throughout the nation. Both commemorations challenge our nation to take stock of our ideals, embedded in our founding documents and in our DNA, the insatiable hunger and thirst for greater liberty and justice for all. (Pledge of Allegiance)
MLK Jr. gave his life for this vision of reality that finds its source and summit in God’s Word. “The Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of justice and peace, and the joy of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14,7) His passionate eloquence still resounds from the mighty mountains of New York and the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania, the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado, and the curvaceous slopes of California, from Stone Mountain, Georgia, from Lookout Mountain in Tennessee, and from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. (I Have a Dream Speech, Washington 1963)
Five years later, less than one month before his assassination he returned to D.C. to re-invigorate the dream. “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”(Washington National Cathedral, March 31, 1968). Racial equality has made huge strides in our nation, but this struggle is a marathon with the finish line a long way off.
As you settle into reading or browsing through this edition of the Mississippi Catholic you are doing so on the 43rd anniversary of Roe v Wade, January 22, 1973. Over these many years the light of life has been snuffed out for countless millions of unborn who have no voice of their own. Among many individuals and organizations in our society, and in a prophetic voice as unflinching as MLK Jr., the Catholic Church has spoken out faithfully, passionately, and eloquently on behalf of the unborn.
Moreover, in an unforeseen way, Religion and Science have been strong allies in the advancement of dignity for the unborn. The latter has revealed the truth of the complexity and beauty of unborn life from the first moment of conception, and the former unrelentingly beats the drum on behalf of the dignity of unborn life, created in the image and likeness of God. “For you created my inmost being. You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Ps 139,13)
At times it may appear that teaching, preaching, pleading and sacrificing on behalf of the unborn is a hopeless cause, but there has been remarkable progress. Applying the following words of MLK Jr. can reinvigorate all pilgrims for a holistic vision of life. “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”(Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Oslo, Norway, 1964.)
We pray for the healing of all who have been wounded by choosing abortion, and for society as a whole whose conscience has been deadened, all to willing to accept abortion as a backup to failed contraception, and in large part, unshaken by the image of buckets of fetuses in Planned Parenthood Clinics. Once again we turn to the unflinching prophetic wisdom of Martin Luther King Jr. regarding the web of life of which we are all a part. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Letter from Birmingham, Alabama jail, April 16, 1963.
The quest for greater liberty and justice for all continues on many fronts. This year our Catholic Day at the Capitol will focus on the plight of many children and youth in our State’s Foster Care System, and the plight of those afflicted by mental illness. Compassionate and professional care that provide a framework for hope and greater success for our fellow citizens is not a matter of charity, but of justice.
The dedication of our staff and volunteers at Catholic Charities who provide critical services is a living witness of our desire for greater liberty and justice for all.  Once again we let MLK Jr.’s words lift up our hearts and minds. “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.”
(Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Oslo, Norway, 1964) If we can develop these opportunities throughout the land we would agree that violence against every stage of human development will diminish.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination the legacy of racism once again confronts our society. A civil society that prides itself on liberty and justice, dignity for each person, and opportunity for all, must work together not only to provide law and order, but also the conditions that contribute to a law abiding society. The following words of MLK Jr. call all of us back to our senses, and provide a dignified path.  “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.”
In his visit to our nation in September Pope Francis encouraged us to take heart and hope in the goodness of our society, while at the same time he cast the light of truth onto areas that challenge us to overturn the injustices in our land. It’s always good to have prophets visit from foreign shores. With the image of the mighty Mississippi river before us, we commit our lives to the words of Amos, the prophet of Social Justice in the Old Testament. “Let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream. (Amos 5,24).