MLK Jr. on Service

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind
~Matthew 22:37

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Two Sundays ago we all heard a brief excerpt of a sermon by the Rev. Martin Luther King as we reflected on the charity asked of us in the 2017 Annual Catholic Appeal. Here’s a larger section for all of our benefits and growth in christian charity. Rev. King reflects on Mark 10 in which the disciples argue who among them is the greatest. But Jesus says “whoever will be great among you, shall be your servant: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all." 

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The Drum Major Instinct – Martin Luther King, Jr

Martin Luther King Jr.I know churches get in a bind sometimes. (Amen, Make it plain) I've been to churches, you know, and they say, "We have so many doctors, and so many school teachers, and so many lawyers, and so many businessmen in our church." And that's fine, because doctors need to go to church, and lawyers, and businessmen, teachers— they ought to be in church. But they say that—even the preacher sometimes will go all through that—they say that as if the other people don't count. (Amen)

And the church is the one place where a doctor ought to forget that he's a doctor. The church is the one place where a Ph.D. ought to forget that he's a Ph.D. (Yes) The church is the one place that the school teacher ought to forget the degree she has behind her name. The church is the one place where the lawyer ought to forget that he's a lawyer. And any church that violates the "whosoever will, let him come" doctrine is a dead, cold church, (Yes) and nothing but a little social club with a thin veneer of religiosity. ….

The drum major instinct can lead to exclusivism in one's thinking and can lead one to feel that because he has some training, he's a little better than that person who doesn't have it. Or because he has some economic security, that he's a little better than that person who doesn't have it. And that's the uncontrolled, perverted use of the drum major instinct.

But God has a way of even putting nations in their place. (Amen) The God that I worship has a way of saying, "Don't play with me." (Yes) He has a way of saying, as the God of the Old Testament used to say to the Hebrews, "Don’t play with me, Israel. Don't play with me, Babylon. (Yes) Be still and know that I'm God. And if you don't stop your reckless course, I'll rise up and break the backbone of your power." (Yes) And that can happen to America. (Yes).

But let me rush on to my conclusion, because I want you to see what Jesus was really saying. What was the answer that Jesus gave these men? It's very interesting. One would have thought that Jesus would have condemned them. One would have thought that Jesus would have said, "You are out of your place. You are selfish. Why would you raise such a question?"

But that isn't what Jesus did; he did something completely and altogether different. He said in substance, "Oh, I see, you want to be first. You want to be great. You want to be important. You want to be significant. Well, you ought to be. If you're going to be my disciple, you must be." But he reordered priorities. And he said, "Yes, don't give up this instinct. It's a good instinct if you use it right. (Yes) It's a good instinct if you don't distort it and pervert it. Don't give it up. Keep feeling the need for being important. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be first in love. (Amen) I want you to be first in moral excellence. I want you to be first in generosity. That is what I want you to do."

And he transformed the situation by giving a new definition of greatness. And you know how he said it? He said, "Now brethren, I can't give you greatness. And really, I can't make you first." This is what Jesus said to James and John…."And the right hand and the left are not mine to give, they belong to those who are prepared." (Amen) And so Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great— wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. (Amen) That's a new definition of greatness.

And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, (Everybody) because everybody can serve. (Amen) You don't have to have an advanced college degree to serve. (All right) You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. (Amen) You only need a heart full of grace, (Yes, sir, Amen) a soul generated by love. (Yes) And you can be that servant.

Works of MercyIf any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. (Yes) And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize—that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards—that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school. (Yes)

- I'd like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. (Yes)

- I'd like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.

- I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. (Amen)

- I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. (Yes)

- And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. (Yes)

- I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. (Lord)

- I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity. (Yes)

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say I was a drum major for justice. (Amen) Say that I was a drum major for peace. (Yes) I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. (Yes) I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine, luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. (Amen) And that's all I want to say.

- If I can help somebody as I pass along,Good Samaritan

- If I can cheer somebody with a word or song, - If I can show somebody he's traveling wrong, Then my living will not be in vain.

- If I can do my duty as a Christian ought, - If I can bring salvation to a world once wrought,

- If I can spread the message as the master taught, Then my living will not be in vain.

Yes, Jesus, I want to be on your right or your left side, (Yes) not for any selfish reason. I want to be on your right or your left side, not in terms of some political kingdom or ambition. But I just want to be there…. 

 

Heart, Soul and Mind

Monsignor Royal's weekly column as featured in our bulletin.


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