The country celebrates today the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. With the movie Selma and the deaths of Black Americans highlighted through the awareness campaign of the Black Lives Matter movement, the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. has been renewed in our Church’s consciousness.
Pope Francis included Martin Luther King, Jr along with three others Americans in a speech to a joint session before the U.S. Congress. The total four Americans he highlighted (the other three were Abraham Lincoln, Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton) epitomized the American spirit to Francis. Before a silent audience in the chamber of the House of Representatives, Pope Francis spoke about the “dream” of Martin Luther King Jr. He said:
Here too I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery fifty years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his “dream” of full civil and political rights for African Americans. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of “dreams”. Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.
Francis went on further to mention the threats to the dreaming of a people: fear of the immigrant or those different from oneself, unequal socio-economic structures, violence in our communities, and neglect to the young and to families. If we are to live into God’s fuller vision of our world, a world that is transfigured through God’s love and human dignity cherished, we need to pray for newness of hearts. We need to pray for the Spirit to give us freshness of mind to respond.
The elimination of racism will take an effort over the long haul. It requires hard conversation where we need to challenge and be challenged similarly with conversations about race. It requires action ultimately to protect the vulnerable and empower the marginalized in society. What are we willing to do not for Martin’s dream but God’s dream for all God’s people?
How have I responded to the conversation of race in our country? Where have I been consoled? Where have I felt desolation? What is God asking to do to live the dream?
 Pope Francis, Visit to the Joint Session of Congress, accessible at https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2015/september/documents/papa-francesco_20150924_usa-us-congress.html