At SS. Columba-Brigid Parish in Buffalo, a packed church came together to remember the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., a day before what would have been the slain civil rights leader's 89th birthday and months before the 50th anniversary of his death. Bishop Richard J. Malone served as celebrant at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. diocesan celebration on Jan. 14, with Deacon LeRoy T. Gill Jr., from the Archdiocese of Chicago, serving as guest homilist.
In his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, King articulated his vision for an ideal America. However, Deacon Gill lamented that "none of us can say that we have fully lived up to Dr. King's vision of a land where each person will be judged by the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin."
"Tensions continue, and regularly we hear of yet another incident in our country where race is presented as a precipitating factor. Things are different today than they have been in the past, but the question remains: why has it been so difficult for us to embrace and consistently live out Dr. King's dream?" he asked.
Deacon Gill expressed his belief that which is "right" by one group is often "wrong" in the eyes of another. He called on the congregation to resurrect King's dream since "Dr. King is rolling in his grave" over the current state of the U.S.
"We cannot be content when all around us, we hear the cries of those who have been shunned, ignored and treated with contempt," he said. "We cannot be content with a world that places politics over people ... a world being threatened by nuclear war ... where children are afraid their parents will be deported, or people aren't good enough to be called Americans," he added.
The morning's first reading came from the first book of Samuel. Samuel was the son of Hannah, a praying woman like King's own mother, Alberta Williams King. Deacon Gill recalled how after God spoke to Samuel, the boy ran to Eli because he was not sure what he had heard. However, Eli told him that it was the voice of the Lord.
Similarly, King knew the voice of God when he heard it, Deacon Gill said, and the civil rights icon answered God's call to stand up for equality and raise the conscience of the American people, in spite of threats and intimidation.
"I look forward every year to our Eucharist in honor and memory of Martin Luther King Jr., so that we give him gratitude given his ministry, but also let ourselves be confronted by the challenge that he presents us, that is sadly an unending challenge," Bishop Malone commented.
The bishop read a portion of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' statement on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the USCCB, authored. Cardinal DiNardo wrote, "Dr. King reminded us that our obligations to one another concern inner attitudes, genuine person-to-person relations, and expressions of compassion which law books cannot regulate and jails cannot rectify. Such obligations are met by one's commitment to an inner law, written on the heart."
"Man-made laws assure justice, but a higher law produces love." On this national holiday, may we think prayerfully about the life and legacy of the Reverend Dr. King, who directed his work toward both the structural and personal causes of racism. As he urged the nation from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, 'No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream,'" Bishop Malone continued, quoting Cardinal DiNardo's statement.
Following distribution of Communion, Bishop Malone and Milagros Ramos, director of the diocesan Office of Cultural Diversity, presented the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship to Evelyn Colangelo-Moppins.
The recipients of the 2017-18 Albert Lenhard, St. Matthews, St. Martin de Porres Scholarship Fund Awards were Brandon Barksdale, Amaya Devers, Gherezghiher Ghebreyesus and Anthony Lirano.
After the Mass, a reception included a theme basket auction, with all proceeds from the sales to benefit the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund.