Read: John 12: 20-33
Today this nation remembers Martin Luther King Jr. A day when this nation and the world remembers role that this revolutionary civil right leader played re writing the history of United States, one who inspired millions of African Americans in their fight for justice, for human dignity and rights. In 1906, much before Martin Luther King started his famous civil rights movement; a young lawyer named Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi adopted a non violent protest in South Africa against a government order of compulsory registering of Indian population. Though the government used violent method to quell the protest, the young Gandhi adopted complete non violent means of protest- The Satyagraha. Years later when Martin Luther King was a student at Crozer Theological Seminary, Chester, Pennsylvania, in his presentation at the theology class, King included Gandhi as an individual who greatly revealed the working of the Spirit of God and who later stated that "Christ showed us the way and Gandhi in India through his non violent protest showed it could work". One of remarks that King later made in his life was that he considered Gandhi as the greatest Christian in the modern world. On this day as we remember Martin Luther King, we need to understand that such was a influence of Gandhi on Martin Luther King. A leader who never forsook the path of non-violence even it meant danger to his life. History states that when he gave leadership to boycott of public transportation system in Montgomery for de-segregation of seats on buses, a caller warned him of dire consequences if he ever came back to Montgomery. Few days later his house was bombed. As angry African Americans gathered outside his house chanting slogans and wanting to retaliate, when King found out that his family was safe, he began talking with the protesters and told them to just go home. Later when three young girls were killed in bombing during one of his demonstration, King went through deep depression at the loss of human life but he proclaimed " in spite of the darkness of this hour, we must not become bitter, nor must we harbor the desire to retaliate with violence". Here is a leader ready to sacrifice and lay down his life but will never adopt the way of violence but walk the path of peace and justice. His famous speech at the Lincoln memorial " I have a dream" is one of the most prophetic speeches given by a leader, a call of hope and a life giving support to a community that was fighting their back against the wall, the fight for basic right and justice. In the last days of his life, Martin Luther King was little disillusioned as his fight for civil rights was going nowhere and many of his colleagues started opposing him in the means that he adopted to give leadership to the civil rights movement. They wanted him to shun the nonviolent means and also think about alternate ways of spearheading the civil rights movement so that they could be more powerful, but King opposed it. Even in the final moments of his life, as he came to Memphis to lead a peaceful rally in support of garbage workers, he opposed all sorts of violent action. Ultimately, it was the violent action of shooter James Earl Ray that ultimately silenced King, but not his words nor his principles. Today when looking at the legacy that Martin Luther King has left behind we find, communities and race, people of different religion fighting, trying to assert themselves in manner that is threatening and violent. Even Church has began stooping down, and adopting any means and so as to forcibly snatch rights through the label or tag of being a minority. No wonder that in a country like in India, especially in a state like Kerala, the majority sometimes seems to be at the mercy of the minority. In such a context how does the legacy of Martin Luther King, becomes significant?. This also needs to be seen with respect to the message that our Lord has taught us with regards to the legacy and the witness that the church need to carry on in this world to make it presence significant and relevant?.
In the Gospel of John 12:20-33, we find a very interesting passage about Jesus teaching his disciples what it means to be glorified. It is the dream of every human being that their life should exemplify some element of glory. Glory that could be attained through power that they wield, or because of the authority that they have been given, the position that they have in church or society or may be through the social status because of their cast or race or may be are financially rich. But Jesus brings a new understanding of what it means to be glorified. Jesus tells the disciple that his concept of glory is compared to a grain of wheat. Wheat is useless if it remains all by itself. But if the wheat falls to the ground and dies, then only will it be able to produce much fruit. Moreover Jesus says that one should not be concerned about loving ones life on the contrary one should be ready to loose ones life and it is only then we can really find life and the true meaning of life. Here is Jesus emphasizing that life is not about preservation and forceful living by making ourselves more and more powerful, either through more acquisition of power and authority but a conscious decision to make oneself vulnerable, conscious decision, whereby I shed the so called powers of authority that I try to wield over others and be willing to exterminate and annihilate all forms of self glory and self preservation. When we are able to do that, our objective and mission of life becomes a life that is lived for common good, for the fight for the right of other who are less fortunate than myself. It is sad that we as church are more concerned about our self preservation, doing everything so as to propagate the legacy of power and authority that we wield to the community. Thus sometimes our church buildings, our so called projects in the parish and church are symbols to show to the community how powerful we are. Bigger the church bigger the symbol of power that we want to show others. It is in this context that as we remember Martin Luther King Jr, let us consciously see to it that our life that we live is not a means of self glorification and brute show of power and authority but willingness to stoop down, humble ourselves, to ascribe no self value, so as to bring glory to God and a new meaning and perspective to our life.
Rev. Dr. Joe Joseph Kuruvilla