A journey towards justice; a light to the nations
By Deaon Royce Winters, Director
“After Jesus’ birth wise men from the east arrived in Jerusalem…When they entered the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary. They bowed down and worshiped him…After they left, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream. The angel said to him, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt” (Matthew 2: 1,11,13)
As we near the celebration of the Feast of Epiphany, the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and as we raise up our prayers for President Nelson Mandela, it has led me to ponder the struggle for justice throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. There are two imposing figures that leap from the annals of history and they are President Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They are men whose gifts of perseverance, commitment and faith allowed them to stand tall against hatred and evil. They embodied this quote from Maya Angelou, “I can be changed by what happens to me, yet I refuse to be reduced by it.”
These two men led the nations of South Africa and America, and its people to take a stand for justice, freedom and peace. Mandela and King, heroic figures of the 1960s, led people to fight oppression through persuasion. It was an appeal for all of humanity to embrace the common humanity of man. In the words of Mandela, “I learned that succumbing to the vengeful passions brought fleeting joys at the cost of lasting benefits…I learned, that forgiveness and generosity and above all, respect were weapons of political persuasion as powerful as any gun” Nelson Mandela’s Legacy, John Carlin.
In the Holy Family’s exodus from Bethlehem in Judea to Egypt, they are fleeing from the tyrant King Herod. Herod in the story reminds us that there are governments, institutions and leaders who are threatened by justice and truth. Even though Herod is a central figure in the lives of the people, God uses the wise men to unveil the truth that darkness shall not overcome light. We have come to know there are times when we discover the sacred in the darkest times and events in our lives. I can hear the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land” (Memphis, Tn. April 3, 1968).
In Romans, Paul writes, “The redemptive power of God works all things together in a pattern for good in the lives of those who love God and who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). The work of justice in a broken world is filled with compassionate and merciful love. A love that transforms systems and the hearts of humanity.”
In these celebrations of prayer and remembrance, may the days ahead lead us to a place where we are heralds of truth and justice. May we eradicate the evils of injustice, oppression and tyranny in our time. And, may the God who led the Holy Family to Egypt, lead us to the place He has prepared for us, the New Jerusalem.
Deacon Winters is the director of the archdiocesan Office of African- American Catholic Ministries