When a disciple of Jesus takes his or her prophetic baptismal callrnseriously, that person’s words and actions live on long after he or she leavesrnthis world.
An outstanding examplernof this truth is found in the prophetic discipleship of the Rev. Martin LutherrnKing, Jr. who with selfless courage, faithfully lived out his God-given missionrn50 years ago — albeit ending tragically too short.
For on the evening of April 4, 1968, after preachingrnand being present in solidarity with poorly paid African-American sanitationrnworkers, King, while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis,rnTenn., suffered a fatal bullet wound — leaving this world at the young age ofrn39.
On that sad day America,rnand indeed the whole world, lost a powerfully prophetic voice and courageousrnwitness to the social justice and nonviolent peace teachings of Jesus Christ.
But a fatal bulletrncoming from one assassin or from a conspiracy of Mafia, local, state andrnfederal government agencies could not silence therntruthful words that continue to challenge a nation and world to completelyrnabandon its deep-seated acceptance and addiction to racism, inequality,rninjustice, militarism and violence.
The messenger was killed. But hisrnmessage lives on!
King said, “God intends for all ofrnhis children to have the basic necessities of life, and he has left in thisrnuniverse enough and to spare for that purpose.”
For example, there is indeed enough food in the world tornadequately feed every single child, woman and man. And yet, over 40 millionrnpeople in the United States struggle with hunger. And according to Catholic Relief Services over 800 million fellow human beings throughout the world arernhungry.
Why are we allowing this to happen?
In large part this hunger suffered by so many is due to anrnincreasing disparity between the haves and the have-nots. And President Trump’srnand Congress’ new tax law widens this disparity.
And while most Americans think the U.S. gives at least 25rnpercent of its national budget to help the poorest hungriest people in thernworld, the truth is that the U.S. government allocates less than 1 percentrntowards poverty-focused international aid. That is downright stingy.
King said, “Arnriot is the language of the unheard.” This is a hard fact. And it applies notrnonly in the U.S. but around the world.
I recently heard Rev. Mae Cannon, executiverndirector of Churches for Middle East Peace, say in reference to the injusticesrnand poverty suffered by Gazans at the hands of the Israeli government thatrn“desperate situations leave people feeling desperate. And desperate people leadrnto war.”
This is why Blessed PopernPaul VI famously said, “If you want peace, work for justice.”
Spiritual death drawsrnever closer as the U.S. and many other nations continue to spend $1.7 trillionrnannually on war and war preparation while allowing countless people to sufferrnand die in poverty and hunger.
King warned, “A nationrnthat continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than onrnprograms of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”
And that is where thernU.S. and many other nations are at: the cliff of spiritual doom. America hasrn“In God we trust” on its money, but in many ways not in its heart.
But it doesn’t have tornbe this way. King encouragingly said, “The time is always right to do what isrnright.”
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicatedrnsocial justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan orrnparish gatherings. Tony can be reached at [email protected].