We often give in order to receive, we love our friends and hate our enemies, we go the first mile but dare not travel the second, we forgive but dare not forget.
— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
On Jan. 21 we celebrated the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and we saw the second inauguration of the first African-American president of the United States. We took some time to reflect on the movement lead by Dr. King to bring justice to the world. We celebrated the changes that have taken place because of him and sadly looked at the changes that still need to take place. In some fundamental ways, King's dream for justice remains just a dream.
In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius challenges us all to go beyond dreaming. Ignatius points out that changes in the world require changes in each person. If the love of God is going to be seen in this world, then each person needs to feel the love of God for themselves to be able to reflect His love to others. If justice is to be found in all of our institutions, then each person needs to be free from the fears of losing themselves or things which drive them to compete. Dreams become reality only in the freedom found in the felt knowledge of God's love.
This has never been an easy transformation, even for St. Ignatius or Martin Luther King. All human beings seem to have default attitudes of fear which stifle loving relationships to be established.
The history of Saint Louis University offers us this same lesson. On Friday, Feb. 11, 1944, Father Claude Heithaus, S.J., gave a fiery homily on the evils of segregation at our University. History has noted that this marked the beginning of a transformation of our institution which lead to admitting the first African-American students. This was a first for our city, state and region, and lead the way for many other schools.
What history sometimes forgets to remind us is that Fr. Heithaus was removed from Saint Louis University and sent to other schools. His prophetic statement was not well-received by all and, in fact, caused considerable unrest in and out of this school and among many constituencies. This time of transformation was not an easy time and did not come without some cost or crisis. Finding freedom, personal or institutional, is a process of growth which takes time and may not be as clear or concise as we would wish.
Today, as we reflect on where we have been and where we want to go, let us also remember that we are in a process of becoming; that all human development, individually or institutionally, includes some struggles.
We may be tempted to get discouraged if we are not where we want to be. We may want to surrender to the illusion that the way it is now cannot change. We must remember that we are in the middle of a growth process. As we work on changing ourselves and our institution, we are all learning to be freer ... learning to know that the love God has for each of us is real love. It takes time. It is not always painless or easy. But to make a dream a reality begins with little changes in ourselves, so together we might change our institutions.
Let us pray today for the courage to change ourselves
as we grow in the freedom God's love give us.
A. M. D. G.
D. Highberger, S.J.
P. Stark, S.J.