Social Justice: Beginning the year with praying for peace, life

By DeKarlos Blackmon
Columnist

As we begin the year, January is filled with several commemorations and celebrations that are integral to life and liberty in contemporary society. The month begins with the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and the World Day of Peace on Jan. 1. Considering the strife felt at home and abroad, I can think of no better way than to start off the year than in steadfast prayer for peace. 
In 1968, Pope Paul VI reminded us succinctly, “The world must be educated to love Peace, to build it up and defend it.” Almost half a century later, Pope Francis urges us — families, faith communities, government leaders and the international community — to practice nonviolence and to work to build a just peace. The Holy Father is merely urging us to live out our faith by doing what Christ impels us to do. This concept of nonviolence brings us to the commemoration of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 16. King was a Christian minister who devoted his life to applying the teachings of Jesus to oppose the political and social sins of segregation and discrimination. Throughout his career, King drew on the teachings and example of Jesus to inspire his followers and to change the hearts of those in power. It is no accident that many of the great leaders of history were inspired by the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. This notion of nonviolence is not a contemporary idea thought up by a gathering of preachers in a back room, this notion of non-violence was an original idea of “Dr. Jesus,” who so often speaks of forgiveness, mercy and love. 
For generations in the U.S., people have been victims of inequality, discrimination and oppression. We, the Christian faithful, must be ever mindful of our role in welcoming “the stranger” and show genuine care and hospitality for the immigrant community. As we approach the MLK federal holiday, we should look at it as more than just a day off work. We should seize the opportunity to give back to our communities, and renew our own commitments to justice and charity. As we fulfill our Christian obligation to be “drum majors for justice” in this contemporary age, we must be vigilant in seeking opportunities to create structures of justice and integrity for those rendered defenseless by indifference. 
This brings us to our obligation to fight for the fundamental right to life on which every other right is predicated. As we approach the commemoration of Roe v. Wade on Jan. 22, and the tragic consequences of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, we are called to hold high the banner of our faith by fighting for all life. This is a fundamental Christian priority: to affirm the intrinsic value of human life and the dignity of every human being in a way that transforms culture. Christ came that we may have life, and have it abundantly (Jn 10:10). We must take our moral obligation seriously to defend human life at every age and every stage from conception to natural death. Each of us is a holy child of God who is wonderfully and fearfully made.
Finally, I encourage everyone to participate in the Mass commemorating the work of Martin Luther King at St. Mary Cathedral on Jan. 15 at 9:30 a.m. with Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry of Chicago and Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Garcia of Austin.  We also encourage everyone to participate in the activities of Texas Catholic Pro-Life Day beginning with Mass at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Austin on Jan. 28 at 10 a.m. For details, visit www.austindiocese.org/offices-ministries/offices/pro-life-activities-and-chaste-living-office.