Epiphany, MLK Day, and The Colored Kingdom of God
Here’s something good from the Catholic tradition that fits this week’s celebration of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King.
Whether you celebrated it on Sunday or Thursday, this year the Church celebrated Epiphany as she does each year. Though we mostly think of Epiphany dealing with the visit of the Magi to Jesus, the Church also can binds the other themes of Jesus’s baptism in the Jordan, which the Church later celebrated properly the next Sunday, and the wedding at Cana.
Key to the major theme concerning the visit of the Magi is the understanding that the revelation of Jesus to the Magi was also a revelation of Jesus to the Gentiles (the “Nations”, otherwise known as everyone else who is not Jewish). This is because the Magi themselves were Gentiles. This is why you traditional see diverse images of the magi, and one of them is almost always Black in appearance.
In this aspect Epiphany is a pretty anti-racist celebration especially through the Church’s presentation of it through the liturgy in both the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours in the Roman Rite.
Lord every Nation on Earth will adore you
Responsory in Morning Prayer for the Liturgy of the Hours:
All the kings of the earth will bow down in worship.
– All the kings of the earth will bow down in worship.
Men and women of every nation will serve him.
– They will bow down in worship.
The book used for the universal prayer / intercessions that was used at my parish last Sunday from which I read out for the congregation was written decades ago, and it explicitly requested in prayer that all bigotry, hatred, and racism be driven from our hearts.
This shows that essential to the biblical plan for salvation is a repudiation of all forms racism and unjust prejudice that would exclude any group of people from entering in communion with the rest of God’s people. The communion God seeks to make of humanity with Himself is a communion that includes all peoples, indeed, “every nation on earth.”
This also shows that essential to the Catholic tradition, which seeks to further carry the message of salvation to the world, is also the same repudiation. The coming Kingdom of God proclaimed by the Church is catholic precisely because it is colored. From peach-tinted faces to Black and beautiful bodies, the Father of all will reign over every shade of His creation redeemed and renewed in Christ.
Meditating on this truth about the biblical and Catholic understanding of salvation and how it finds intersection with the life and legacy of Dr. King is no doubt a worthy task during this week of MLK Day and this month of January, which also had the Church’s celebration of Epiphany.
May God continue to repose Dr. King’s soul this MLK Day week.