(Morning Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Friday, 16 January 2015)
Let us remember that we are in the presence of God. (sung by a student choir from Mr. McNamara’s homeroom)
Earlier this week Mrs. Hansen reminded us of the meaning of the holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She spoke of the importance of love and faith and nonviolence in addressing the tensions and injustices in our society.
I, too, am an ardent admirer of Dr. King. I was present for one of his great speeches in Washington, in the days when I took buses, with thousands of other students, to march for civil rights and to protest the War in Vietnam. At that time, I took him for a prophet, and I still do. But I knew in my gut that his message of nonviolence would not be accepted by the American masses, in the same way that the message of Jesus was much too radical for the men and women of Galilee, Judea, Rome and beyond.
And now I am much dismayed by the way American citizens, young people in particular, often fail to respond to the ongoing wars, and the continued problems of racism and civil rights.
When I was in high school and college, during the Vietnam War, the draft loomed over all of us. And I was, indeed, ultimately drafted. And partly as a result of that draft, we were deeply involved with what our country was doing militarily and in the area of civil rights. Our first act each morning was to check the newspaper for information about what was happening, and why. And we challenged our government on many fronts, and were often criticized by our elders.
Today, it seems, we go to the mall or the movies and let the military things do what they need to do. I read yesterday in the paper that in Rhode Island less than 20% of people aged 18 – 30 even bothered to vote in the last election. I could hardly believe it.
While I know that a draft would make an enormous and healthy difference in our collective response to wars, I cannot imagine sending my students or my grandchildren to this fate. But I think that a draft might be a just and restraining solution to some of our country’s rash military decisions. And I am open to debate on this.
Dr. King today would be prodding us relentlessly about our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, asking us what has this violence gained for us or for any of humanity, what has it cost us? And can we please get involved with these issues again?
Dr. King today would be prodding us relentlessly about the culture divide between minorities and law enforcement, between black and white, between rich and poor. He would be seeking bridges for these divides, healing for this hate, balm for this wound.
War and peace, race and justice, are crucial issues for a Christian. Let us resolve to investigate, to question, to search. And also to act, nonviolently, in a spirit of love and hope. Dr. King preached: “Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.”
And again, he proclaimed, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
And finally: “in the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Can you and I accept and live the nonviolent message of Dr. King and of Jesus? What do you think? Really, what do you think?
Let us pray.
Brother Jesus, you taught us to love the enemy, to turn the other cheek, to see every man as a brother, every woman as a sister. You taught us to try a way that seems to us men and women so crazy and illogical. Of course, you did not ever claim that your way is easy. But you did teach us that love and mercy are the fundamental powers of the universe. Help us to establish your reign of love, within our hearts, in our dear school, and across our world.
Saint John Baptist de La Salle, pray for us.
Live, Jesus, in our hearts. Forever!
Michael McNamara–Mathematics Teacher