SAN DIEGO — The Civil Rights Movement continues today, and each person of faith has to continue to work to make its basic call to love one another — and reject hate — a reality.
Auxiliary Bishop Ramón Bejarano delivered that message at the third annual Mass commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King’s call to service on Jan. 15 at The Immaculata Church. The Mass was moved there after the rain damaged Christ the King Church, where it was scheduled.
The Diocesan Commission for African American Catholics organized the Mass, presided over by Cardinal Robert W. McElroy. Deacon Marvin Threatt proclaimed the Gospel reading.
The U.S. Catholic Church denounces racial discrimination in all its forms as a sin and works to advance racial justice. Under the leadership of Cardinal McElroy, the diocese has held events and forums to explore racism and identify potential solutions, and to stand with its victims.
In his opening remarks, Cardinal McElroy referred to the day’s Gospel (John 1:29-34), in which John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God.
“John the Baptist is great because, when they come to acclaim him, he does not point toward himself…He points to Christ. He points to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And Martin Luther King did the same thing. The greatness of Martin Luther King is that he took the horrendous situation of discrimination which had existed since slavery, and put it within the context of Christian faith, so we could recognize how incompatible racism in any form is with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“The African American community, even through the slave period, brought their suffering to Christ and interpreted it in the light of their faith in Jesus Christ and in the Church. And that’s what we celebrate this day,” the cardinal said.
In the homily, Bishop Bejarano said that Christ came to show us how “to reject evil, and the only way to do that is the way of Jesus, the way of love.” He said that Dr. King embraced this mission.
“Dr. King had a personal relationship with Jesus, and that’s why the Lord chose him to be a prophet of our times,” the bishop said. “However, it’s not enough that we know what the Lord did through him, it is necessary that we continue the call and mission that he received.”
The bishop noted that the encyclopedia says that the Civil Rights Movement ended in 1968.
“The Civil Rights Movement has not ended; it continues in our midst now … because as long as there is sin in the world, there will be need to continue the (work) of the Civil Rights Movement.”
He urged the faithful to act.
“Live the Gospel of Christ to its fullest, and let love transform your life and transform the life of others. … If you cannot fly, run. If you cannot run, walk. And if you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving in your love and in your faith.”