Dr. King and Communion

Wednesday in the Octave of Easter

Acts 3:1-10; Luke 24:13-35


Fifty years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.  It was a great loss for this nation and for the world.  He was a great advocate for justice and nonviolent change in society. 

In one of his great sermons, “The Drum Major Instinct” (based on Mark 10:35-45) he said, “I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. “

Like St. Peter in our first reading, Dr. King didn’t have silver or gold to offer anyone, but what he gave was priceless:  his life.  He was only 39 years old when he died.  Yet, as his friend and confidante Andrew Young observed last night in paraphrasing an African proverb at a memorial service in Memphis, “You ain’t dead ‘til people stop saying your name.”  His legacy and the challenges he presented to our nation live on.

St. Luke tells us that the disciples whom Jesus encountered on the road to Emmaus recognized him “in the breaking of the bread.”  When we hear those words, we immediately and rightly think of the Eucharist.  We believe that Jesus is really and truly present under the appearance of bread and wine in the body and blood we share in communion.

But the Church teaches that Jesus is present in other ways when we celebrate the Mass: 

He is present in the word of God, in our readings from the Bible. 
He is present in all the people assembled, who represent the body of Chris, the Church.
He is present in the person of the priest, who presides in his place.
He is also present when we celebrate the other sacraments.

We can be grateful for all of the ways in which Jesus is present to us in the Mass.  We pray for that same loving and faithful vision to recognize the Lord in all of our brothers and sisters, no matter what they look like or where they come from.

+ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., pray for us.—JC