Bishop Edward Malesic gazed out at the largely empty Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist on Jan. 17 as he began to celebrate a Mass in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the national holiday dedicated to his memory.
“This is not the Mass we had hoped for,” he said, noting there was an altar server and Father Don Oleksiak, vicar general, in the cathedral with him when Mass began. Many others were digging out from a snowstorm that pummeled Greater Cleveland overnight and into the morning. “But we are a joyful and a hopeful people,” he said.
The Mass was livestreamed, which enabled those stuck at home to view it live or on demand on the diocesan website. There was no music and the Diocesan Gospel Choir, which planned to sing, was unable to attend.
“We are united in spirit,” the bishop said, adding he was happy for the opportunity to come together to remember the life and legacy of Rev. King.
“But my heart is also a bit anxious. The work he left us to do is unfinished. People still judge others by the color of their skin rather than by the content of their character,” he said. “A person’s outside must never keep us from wanting to know their inside. God is color blind, after all, and so must we be. Not that we don’t appreciate diversity in our community, but that we should pay more attention to what makes us one and the same family of God. And that is why I am anxious – we are not there yet as a community. We all know that.”
The Mass provided an opportunity to come together in our spiritual home – the cathedral – to remember this man of God and his legacy of peace and non-violence, his desire for racial equality, the bishop said. He noted that Rev. King advocated for the voting rights of African Americans when they were denied those rights and he worked for justice for all.
“God spoke to our nation and our world through him. He modeled for us the prayer of Jesus, who begged us to be one as he is one with the Father, without division or strife. May we not stand in the way of the prayer of Jesus for unity, harmony, peace and ultimate salvation,” he added.
Bishop Malesic said Rev. King’s legacy remains as a beacon of light and love, drawing us away from the intrinsic evil of racism toward the fundamental truth that because all humans share a common origin, we are all brothers and sisters, all equally made in the image of God.
As Rev. King is honored, the bishop said there is an opportunity to recommit ourselves to the Gospel message of love, mutual respect and to see the dignity of every human person. Being a pro-life Church includes the life of everyone, the bishop added.
Racism occurs because a person ignores the fundamental truth that each of us is made in the image of God, he said. We pray that our nation might come to fully realize the promise of liberty, equality and justice for all – for Rev. King’s dream to be made real, the bishop added. The heavy lifting that may require means asking for God’s help because nothing is impossible with God.
“Let’s remember to put our nation under God and God will transform our souls to be more like his. It’s not his Church that is causing the violence in our streets, it is the lack of respect for God and refusing to follow God’s laws that is doing that to us. More faith, not less faith is the ultimate solution to our problems. That’s why a preacher from Atlanta could speak so well to our hearts. He knew the truth of God and he wasn’t afraid to say it,” Bishop Malesic said, calling Rev. King “an artisan of peace.”
He said Rev. King told people if they “can’t fly, then run; if you can’t run, then walk; if you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, have to keep moving forward.” The bishop called that good advice and encouraged people not to give up, to do all things with love and to be a people of forgiveness.
“The witness of our faith is what changes people’s lives. Following Jesus is what attracts people to us,” he said, encouraging everyone to remember two important words of Jesus: come and go.
“My peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you,” the bishop said, quoting Jesus.
“Friends and fellow believers, Dr. King’s dream of harmony and equality for all people, attained through nonviolent and peaceful means, remains every timely. I am anxious to see it come to be. And I have hope for that better day. After all, Jesus lives in all of us. His blood unites us. We belong to him. We belong to each other,” the bishop said.