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Cardinal Honors Dr. King’s Dedication to Transform World

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HONORS LEGAGY: Cardinal Robert W. McElroy celebrated a Mass on Jan. 14, 2024, at Christ the King Church, in San Diego, to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,'s Call to Service. He was accompanied, left to right, by Auxiliary Bishops Ramón Bejarano and Michael Pham, Pastor Tommie Jennings, Deacon Robert Booth and Father Emmet Farrell. (Photo by Aida Bustos)

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SAN DIEGO — Cardinal Robert W. McElroy called on all disciples of God to work to transform the world, particularly on the social justice front, just like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had once done.

He celebrated the Sunday morning Mass at Christ the King Parish, where it was standing room only, on the day before the national holiday honoring Dr. King.

The Diocesan Commission for African American Catholics organized the Gospel Mass. Father Tommie Jennings, the parish’s pastor, served as a concelebrant, along with Auxiliary Bishops Ramón Bejarano and Michael Pham, Father Emmet Farrell and Deacon Robert Booth.

Reflecting on the day’s reading (Samuel 3:3-10,19) in his homily, Cardinal McElroy said that Dr. King understood that his faith called him to try to transform the world, particularly on the issue of racial justice.

“And so, he spent his life and lost his life because of his dedication,” the Cardinal said.

“And we know in our country, sadly, the issue of race and racial division, which has torn our country asunder from the beginning, is still with us in various forms that are very corrosive, very damaging.

“And we are called to proclaim the reign of God in justice, racial justice and social justice. And that’s a major part of our mission as disciples. We cannot leave that to others.”

He said two visions are competing in the nation.

“We can either believe we are called to be one family of God in our country, or we can believe every group should be out for itself,” he said. “And God’s vision is for one human family, in solidarity.”

After the 8:30 a.m. Mass, many of those on hand attended a reception in the parish hall, which featured information and photos of Dr. King.

Rick Stewart, the commission’s chair, said the Altar Society and Pastoral Council of Christ the King Parish, the Knights and Ladies of Peter Claver, and leaders from St. Rita’s Church, had collaborated to organize the Mass and reception. The parish’s Gospel Choir, led by DeShon Hall, joyously accompanied the Mass, receiving several standing ovations.

The following are excerpts from the Cardinal’s homily:

Jesus comes into the very core of our lives. And I want to ask you, for a minute now, just close your eyes and think that Jesus comes to you, and He asks you the question he asked in the Gospel: What are you looking for in your life? What are you looking for in me God? Just ponder that.

Each of the disciples probably had a different answer to that question when Jesus comes to them: What are you looking for at that moment in their lives, at that moment in your life, my life, in all of our lives. When Christ comes, what are you looking for? But for all of their very different answers to that question, Jesus was the answer to them all.

And Jesus came to them and encountered them in their individuality, in their strengths, in their weaknesses and their failures, in their great excesses of love and mercy and care that they had in their lives. And Jesus walked with them. They walked with Him. And in that journey, they came to understand the message of God coming into the world. Jesus came to proclaim the reign of God. The reign of God is central to our people, and the reign of God is the answer for every one of us in our lives.

 It is what we know in our hearts, that the world that we live in does not conform on so many levels with the call to love, compassion, mercy, justice, truth, integrity, that God always gives to us; and that the world in which we live is so different from the world God created and intended for us originally within our humanity, which is a wonderful humanity. God looks deeply in the failures of our humanity. We have created in our world sinfulness that takes on a life of its own and forms cultures and causes selfishness, sinfulness, and disrupts peace and solidarity among people.

And it is the reign of God which Christ preaches. The reign of God is the difference between what we have now and what will be at the end of time, what will be our salvation when the reign of God is in its fullness, which is reflected in the Beatitudes: love mercy, compassion and peacemaking.

Now, for us as Christians, we have a dilemma. The reign of God is on two levels. One is the reign of God as it is  going to be at the end of time. In heaven, that’s where we will see God’s reign, and God’s intentions in their fullness. But for us now, we fall short of that. And there’s so many patterns in our world which contradict the reign of God.

For us, as disciples, we have three commandments.

The first we heard today when we sang the “Glory”  so beautifully, we are to proclaim the glory of God in the world, because in the end, the answers to these disruptions to compassion, mercy, understanding, integrity, justice; the answers lie in the glory of God and understanding that God is the Father of us all; that we are one human family. We are called to see one another in that light through the prism of God.

And the second thing is, we are called to conversion.

We fail in many things. So, the call to the disciples, the call we’re hearing in the Gospel today, is the call to look into our hearts and souls and ask, “Where are we failing in the reign of God?”

For most of us, we’re pretty good. We live by most everything. But there are certain areas where we don’t, certain compartments of our lives that we don’t let God’s grace shine. For each one of us, they’re different. But the problem is, we are comfortable with that. In fact, we don’t want God’s grace shining into those compartments because we’re very comfortable with the way they are.

We have a certain part of us, you know, that we all say, “God, I give you this, but I have this little part here that I’m just going to keep for myself.”

And so, the call to conversion is to the greater conversion, but also to let God’s grace shine in those compartments of our lives we’re trying to keep to ourselves.

And the third call for us as disciples, the third call is to transform the world in which we live. We are called to build up the way to God. Our faith is not something for us just to give glory to God, which we should, and not just to convert our own hearts and souls individually, but rather to transform the world in which we live by our actions and by our thoughts.

And that’s why we’re here today celebrating the transformation of the world. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. found in faith the root perspective of understanding that he was called to try to transform the world, particularly in racial justice.

And so, he spent his life and lost his life because of his dedication. And we know in our country, sadly, the issue of race and racial division, which has torn our country asunder from the beginning, from the beginning, is still with us in various forms that are very corrosive, very damaging. And we are called to proclaim the reign of God in justice, racial justice and social justice. And that’s a major part of our mission as disciples. We cannot leave that to others.

Now, we have many ways to do that. We can do it in our family life, we can do it in our workplaces, we can do it in society as a whole, as citizens and believers. But we are called to do that, and that’s what the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday is about… We are called to see ourselves as one family, rather than seeing ourselves as divided and polarized and in strife.

There are really two visions here, okay? We can either believe we are called to be one family of God in our country, or we can believe every group should be out for itself. … And God’s vision is for one human family, in solidarity.

And so, I hope and pray that as this year unfolds, which is going to be a particularly difficult year, that we all pray and work to transform our society.

Jesus Christ is calling each one of us out; that we proclaim the glory of God who created us in love and gives every blessing that sustains us in this time. And promises us the fullness of the reign of God at the end of time. And calls us to work to create the reign of God here and now in our midst.

 

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