Reverence and Gratitude
Last Wednesday I wrote with reverence and gratitude about Cardinal John O’Connor, our prophetic and heroic archbishop from 1984 – 2000, on the 100th anniversary of his birth.
Today, as our nation marks his birthday, allow me to reflect on another towering pastor, prophet, hero, and martyr, The Reverend Martin Luther King. About him, too, do I write with reverence and gratitude.
The federal government only notes the birthdays of four people as national holidays: The Reverend King; two presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, on the same day; and Jesus.
Washington was the “Father of our country;” Lincoln was the savior of the united republic; King was the healer of the nation’s gaping wound . . .
And Jesus, and faith in His Father, was the inspiration of all three.
After my words last week about Cardinal O’Connor, I got a bit of criticism. Hardly new. One complainer told me that people needed to keep their faith and religion out of the public square, not like the cardinal.
Thank God George Washington did not “keep his faith out of the public square”! God be praised that Abraham Lincoln, who mentioned God more than any other president, did not put the light of his beliefs under a bushel basket! And, alleluia! . . . we rejoice because a minister, a man of deep faith, a pastor, a man who claimed the Bible as his charter, a preacher, did not hide his religious convictions.
Commentators far wiser than I’ll ever be have observed that a growing number of our political, business, media, professors, and entertainers consider faith and religion for the birds, toxic, harmful, with no place at all in the public square.
That they did not hold sway at the time of President Washington, President Lincoln, Reverend King, and Cardinal O’Connor, is sure a cause of faithful prayer as we celebrate the birth of a courageous, erudite preacher whose summons to “values of the Book” — justice, compassion, God–given civil rights, peace, defense of fragile, threatened human life, and the insistence on the divinely bestowed dignity of each human person — converted a country. . . which remains ever in need of ongoing conversion.