I’ve been to the mountain top: Remembering MLK

I’ve been to the mountain top: Remembering MLK January 18, 2016

View of the Promised Land from Mount Nebo in Jordan

Last November, I had the blessing to celebrate Mass at Mount Nebo, the location from where Moses saw the Promised Land before dying. From the valley below Mount Nebo, Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land and conquered Jericho. In the Book of Deuteronomy, God said to Moses as he stood on the very same spot I stood, “This is the land about which I promised an oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you shall not cross over. So there, in the land of Moab, Moses, the servant of the Lord, died as the Lord had said.”

As a long-time admirer of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, I preached about Dr. King’s legacy and the powerful speech he gave the night before his assassination at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee. A prophetic speech where he powerfully evoked Moses without using his name, and where he tapped into the rich sense of liberation found in the exodus from Egypt.  Dr. King spoke as the New Moses leading his people to the promised land.

When I visited Memphis one year ago (which included a visit to the Mason Temple), I learned that Dr. King did not intend to visit that church that evening, but rather sent some of the men who were traveling with him to represent him. When the men realized the magnitude of the gathering, they returned to the Lorraine Motel and brought Dr. King with them. He proceeded to deliver prophetic words that give me goose bumps every time I hear them.

Interior of Mason Temple, Memphis

“We have some difficulties ahead, but it doesn’t really matter with me anymore, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. I don’t mind, like anybody I would like to live a long life, longevity has its place, but I am not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will, and He has allowed me to go up to the mountain and I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land. So I am happy tonight, I am not worried about anything, I am not fearing any man. My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

Lorraine Motel, Memphis

The next morning, Dr. King was assassinated as he left his room at the Lorraine Motel. His powerful words which drew beautiful imagery from the exodus, gave hope and encouragement not only to the sanitation workers who were on strike in Memphis at that moment, but fueled even more the Civil Rights Movement.

As God raised Moses to be a prophet from among his people at a time of need, God continues to call prophets from time to time in the midst of turmoil and injustice to make his voice heard clearly, providing guidance and direction. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of these prophets.

The more I read and learn about him, the more I realize that his work and efforts were inspired by his religious conviction, not political gain. Oftentimes history books fail to acknowledge this very important fact.

In just 39 years of life he accomplished what no man before him had been able to achieve. He knew he did not have much time evidenced by statements like “the quality, not the longevity, of one’s life is what is important,” so he acted confidently and with deep trust in God.

Martin Luther King Jr. is a prophet of our times. He called a whole society to conversion by standing up for truth in the face of prejudice and turmoil. Saint Catherine of Siena once said that “if we are who we are meant to be, we will set the world on fire.” This is precisely what Martin Luther King Jr. did, he followed God’s call and certainly set the world on fire, transforming it and creating a new, more equal society.

Pictures are mine, all rights reserved.

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