I first encountered the Lorraine Motel on a pilgrimage from New Orleans to Chicago. Memphis, Tennessee, is a city rich in history and ripe with tales as gritty and graceful as its famed blues and barbecue. As I stood in proximity to Room 306 of the Lorraine Motel, I was on holy ground. A man, who represented simultaneous hope and threat to a nation, bled out on that threshold.
Martin Luther King, Jr., was a very human being. He smoked cigarettes and struggled with marital infidelity. In the hour before he was gunned down, he was engaged in a brotherly pillow fight with several of his associates as they joked around waiting for dinner. The simplicity and grandeur of this man swirled around me as I prayed in that sacred space.Pilgrimage takes us to places we need to go—physically, spiritually, and emotionally. These Lenten days have us on pilgrimage with Jesus. Yesterday, Jesus was in Jerusalem, only to flee across the Jordan to avoid arrest and execution. Next, he travels to Bethany and raises Lazarus from the dead. Many begin to believe in Jesus’ power, yet authorities want him dead for imperiling the nation. Tomorrow, despite the tension, we celebrate Palm Sunday. As we accompany Jesus, pay attention to what it means to stand near this loved and hated anointed one.
The night before he was murdered, Martin Luther King, Jr., described the experience of being a marked man and proclaimed that, “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now.” He famously declared, “I’ve been to the mountaintop.” King knew what the family of Tyre Nichols and all of Memphis knows: that violence propagates chaos. King prophesied about the mountaintop because he knew there is another way. Jesus is returning to Jerusalem to imbue calm into the chaos. Will we stand in proximity to him?
- What peaceful practices have you developed to avoid being overcome by despair and chaos?
- As you journey with Jesus, what is God inviting you to consider today?
Fr. Joshua Peters, S.J., is from Detroit and currently the director of mission and identity at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep on the West Side, Blessed Side of Chicago. He is a member of the leadership team of the Jesuit Anti Racism Sodality (JARS) of the USA Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus. He is also a student at the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans.