Greetings from my home in Kerala, India. I’m enjoying visiting my family, relatives and friends. I am also enjoying the hot weather – there are only two seasons here: hot and hotter. ☺
This year the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday falls on January 15th, his actual birthday. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist Minister and a passionate preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and example as well as a martyr for justice. King led the civil rights movement during the mid-1950s until his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. He was given the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
The theme for MLK Day 2024 is “Shifting the cultural climate through the study and practice of Kingian Nonviolence.” A testament to the revolutionary power of nonviolence, Gandhi’s success of non-violence in India directly influenced Martin Luther King, Jr., who argued that the Gandhian philosophy was “the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.”
MLK Day invites us to reflect on the necessity of respecting all people – no matter who they are or how different they are. It is good to point out that the prayer intention of Pope Francis for the month of January is an invitation to all Christians to embrace the diversity of charisms in the Church as a richness. He wrote: “Let us pray that the Spirit help us recognize the gift of different charisms within the Christian communities, and to discover the richness of different ritual traditions within the Catholic Church.”
The timing of this intention is significant because we celebrate the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, January 18th through the 25th. In the short video that the Vatican has released (you can google it and watch it), the Pope urged Christians to unite our prayers to his “for the gift of diversity in the Church,” since diversity is an opportunity to “rejoice”. He noted that diversity and unity were already present in the early Christian communities, and that the tension brought about by diversity had to be resolved on a higher level, resorting to dialog and prayerful listening to the Holy Spirit: “To move forward on the journey of faith, we also need ecumenical dialogue with our brothers and sisters of other confessions and Christian communities. This is not something confusing or disturbing, but is a gift God gives to the Christian community so it might grow as one body, the Body of Christ.” Pope Francis offered the example of the diversity of rites within the Eastern Churches that are in communion with Rome: “They have their own traditions, their own characteristic liturgical rites, yet they maintain the unity of the faith. They strengthen it, not divide it.”
The Catholic Church is not a church of uniformity, as some mistakenly think, but a church of unity in diversity. Our community of St. Matthias is a microcosm of that reality. We are a diverse community, united in our faith in Jesus Christ. The Feast of Epiphany we celebrated last Sunday was a visible sign of unity in diversity. Let us proudly continue our rich and biblical tradition that we proclaim at every weekend Mass: “All are welcome here at St. Matthias.”
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal