January 20, 2014
Pope Francis and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Both “Have a Dream”
I couldn’t help thinking of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech when I read Pope Francis; Apostolic Exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel.” After reflecting with me on #27 of the Pope’s message, I am sure you will see why, and perhaps better appreciate the challenge that the Pontiff is calling us to take up, similar to the one that Dr. King proposed that our nation assume 50 years ago.
“I dream of a ‘missionary option’, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation. The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: as part of an effort to make them more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire in all pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and in this way elicit a positive response from all those who Jesus summons to friendship with him. As John Paul II once said to the Bishops of Oceania: ‘All renewal in the Church must have mission as its goal if it is not to fall prey to a kind of ecclesial introversion’”.
Is Francis’ call for a Church capable of “transforming everything” any less stirring and thought provoking than Martin’s insistence that “business as usual” could and would no longer be accepted by the millions of Negros who were still waiting for the freedom promised to them 100 years earlier by the Emancipation Proclamation?
Is the Pope’s proposal that the Church’s “customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures” be suitably channeled for evangelization rather than “self-preservation” any less dramatic than Martin’s dream “that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed”?
Dr. King’s prophetic speech at the “March on Washington” still inspires me after 50 years. Even more so, I am excited daily as I see his ability to envisage a new way of thinking and living, a new way to relate to others, a new way to dream replicated in other people whom I have come to know and admire and love. I conclude my thoughts with the words from one such visionary who is leading us not only with powerful words, but personal actions backing them up, and giving them life:
“Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: ‘We have always done it this way’. I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities. A proposal of goals without an adequate communal search for the means of achieving them will inevitably prove illusory.” (E.G., #33)
Four times in his speech Dr. King proclaimed, “Now is the time”. In his exhortation 50 years later, Pope Francis asks, “So what are we waiting for?” (E.G. #120)
I say, “Let’s get started.” What do you say?