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Dr. King’s legacy reminds us to do what's right, says Bishop

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In anticipation of the nation’s celebration of the life of Martin Luther King Jr., Bishop Michael F. Burbidge celebrated the annual diocesan Mass in recognition of the civil rights activist Jan. 13 at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington. Though people from far and near attended the Sunday Mass, snowfall throughout the day kept the gathering small.

The Mass traditionally has been hosted by St. Joseph Church in Alexandria accompanied by their Gospel choir. At this Mass, choir director and pianist Eugene Harper and singer Doreen Hamilton led the congregation in spirituals such as “Wade in the Water” and “We Shall Overcome.” Hamilton traveled from Woodbridge, but said she was happy to do it. “I love singing,” she said.

In his homily, Bishop Burbidge spoke about King’s legacy. “Inspired by the teachings of Jesus and the words of our forefathers, Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of a world in which we would live as one holy family in one nation under God with liberty and justice for all,” he said. “He knew that for these realities to be more than a dream, we must be willing in word and action to stand up and protect the sacredness of all human life at every stage; to defend the dignity of each and every person without exception; to never tire of eradicating any form of racism or bigotry; and to respond in love and compassion to the weak and vulnerable in our midst. 

“He said frequently, ‘The time is always right to do right!’ In the midst of hostility, rejection and criticism and through his speeches and witness, he never tired of doing what was right and even offered the ultimate sacrifice.”

As the Mass was celebrated on the Solemnity of the Baptism of Our Lord, Bishop Burbidge reminded the congregation about the gift of baptism. “At the baptism ceremony, parents and godparents are handed a lit candle and told to make sure that the light of Christ continues to shine brightly in the life of the child,” he said. In a world where that light was shining brightly, there would be “people proudly professing and living their faith; people dying to sin and their old way of living; people letting go of hatred, bitterness and jealousy and putting on love; people working tirelessly for the protection of all human life and the dignity of all persons and people taking care of one another especially the weakest of our brothers and sisters. 

“Today, dear friends, there is no better way to praise God and to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. than for you to renew your promise to live daily your baptismal call,” said Bishop Burbidge. 

Hamilton believes Bishop Burbidge’s homily message is much needed today. “As a community, as a country, we need peace, love and to see Jesus’ light because he is the light of the world,” she said. “God is the way and he shows us the way.”

Bishop Burbidge’s statement for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, celebrated on Monday, January 21, is an opportunity to join in faith and remember his lasting legacy as one who relied upon faith and prayer to guide him in the fight against racism and bigotry. Through his witness and the power of his echoing words, Dr. King upheld the belief that all persons, without exception — and especially those subjected to bigotry and prejudice throughout their history and lives--must be afforded the dignity given to them by Our Lord. We pray for the eradication of bigotry and prejudice that, sadly, exists in our history and even in modern times. As Dr. King so eloquently reminded us, ‘hate is too great a burden to bear.’ Let us pray that those harboring the burden of hate yield to the Prince of Peace and the source of salvation and love, Jesus Christ.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019

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