In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King, Jr. writes passionately about the myth of time.
“I guess it is easy for [the privileged] to say, ‘Wait,’” he writes. “But when you are forever fighting a denigrating sense of ‘nobodiness’ then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and [people] are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of injustice . . .”
In my recent reflections on MLK’s words, the parallels in today’s gospel reading struck me: The man was ill for 38 years. 38 years of isolated suffering, of being ignored and forgotten, of being pushed outside the realm of opportunity. The myth of time echoes in this gospel; a reverence for time is more essential than a reverence for human dignity. Jesus should have waited for a more opportune time to heal.
There is a revolutionary urgency about the movements of Jesus. An urgency that prioritizes dignity over dogma. He is intolerant of “waiting” that stalls justice.
Today, there is a litany of names all too similar to the lists of 50 and 100 and 200 years ago. Of people of color: the murdered, the brutalized, the impoverished. We have not been urgent enough.
Jesus has an intolerance for the idea that there is a time, other than the present, to do what is just. And as we look toward the work of today, the gospel reminds us of how essential it is that we too, internalize this intolerance, this same revolutionary urgency.
- How have my biases against the marginalized justified personal decisions to “wait for a better time”?
- In what ways have my actions or inaction stalled the work of justice?
- Where do I imagine Jesus would stand on an issue like racial justice? What might his concrete actions look like? Do my actions reflect what I imagine his might be?