January 14, 2022
Dear Friends in Christ,
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lived just 39 years on this earth before his life ended violently with his murder. On MLK Jr. Day (Jan. 16), we take time to look back to the lessons he taught us and the ongoing work of reconciliation that set in motion to heal the deepest wounds in our nation. While remembered as a preeminent civil rights leader, Dr. King was a Christian pastor who rooted his work in the greatest minds and hearts of the Christian tradition and sought in them a path forward for justice.
Today we remember that his call for all of us to work together to end discrimination begins with each of us examining the prejudices we carry in our own hearts. As a Christian, Dr. King knew that any meaningful change must begin with a conversion of heart. Only such a conversion of the heart allows us to come together and engage in meaningful dialogue as we work to build up the common good.
Change of heart is often difficult. We can become complacent when things are comfortable, and the road ahead seems steady. Often, we fear that conversion will mean that we will lose something important to us, so we cling to what we know. In seeking to extend justice to all our brothers and sisters, regardless of race, Dr. King called us to dream of a different future, a future full of hope, animated by love. I hold his ideals in high regard. They are animated by the Gospel and challenge all of us when we are facing challenging times. One of my favorite passages is:
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”- Martin Luther King Jr.
What inspires me is that these words were spoken by a man, a man discriminated against and targeted because of the color of his skin during a time when segregation was the standard and the sin of racism thrived. As such, they were written by a man with every reason to hate but Dr. King knew that the only path to life is the path of light and love. In our own time mired by such division and vitriol, let us consider his example and see in it a way forward, together. Much work remains in the journey to racial justice and reconciliation. Many wounds remain within our nation but love conquers all forms of hatred, and light drives out any manner of darkness.
Join me in praying for a continued conversion of hearts and the recognition and acceptance of the work that still must be accomplished to achieve Dr. King’s dream.
Faithfully in Christ,
Most Reverend William E. Lori
Archbishop of Baltimore