Thursday, April 10, 2008

Priest, Prophet... and King

Earlier today, a friend of Bishop-elect Tony Taylor's said he had a hard time envisioning the Little Rock appointee in a cassock.

Well, Taylor started getting used to it a bit earlier than usual at today's presser -- house garb, zucchetto and all. (First time a press conference has been so formal in close to a decade... probably owing to the presence of the metropolitan....) 

And when the Oklahoma priest started flashing his famed social-justice cred, linking the witness of MLK to his call to priesthood, jaws were seen dropping in the room.

Statement; snips:

The Pope apparently needs a clearer response than: Oh my gosh! so Archbishop Sambi pressed a little further, asking: How do you feel about this? And all I could think of was: humbled. Humbled by the trust the Lord is placing in me, humbled by the confidence everyone who has had a hand in choosing me to be the next bishop of Little Rock, humbled by the scope of this new calling which is far greater than anything I have ever done before, humbled by my own inner conviction that when the Lord calls the only answer that a faithful servant can give is: "Yes Lord, I will do whatever you ask."

Every bishop traditionally comes up with a coat of arms and a motto, and I have taken my motto from Psalm 37:11 which Jesus quotes in Matthew 5:5 as one of the Beatitudes: "The Humble Shall Inherit the Earth." But there is a problem in that the word translated as humble is different from humble as we usually think of it -- a humble or timid attitude.

In Psalm 37:11 the underlying Hebrew word is Anawim, meaning those of humble circumstances: the poor, the oppressed. Those of humble circumstances will inherit the earth. Jesus' preferential love of the poor and marginalized was courageous, not timid, and so also must we be if we are to be his faithful servants. Not to the exclusion of anyone else but in recognition that those with the greatest need have the greatest claim on us.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated 40 years ago this month and on the day of his death God gave me an insight that helped me eventually hear his call to the priesthood. I was 14 at the time.

The insight was this: being a faithful Christian requires more than just saying prayers, obeying the Commandments and trying to get your own soul into heaven. If you're only interested in your own spiritual welfare in the next life, you don't really believe in the redemptive power of the cross of Jesus Christ.

Martin Luther King taught me that being a faithful Christian required that I do whatever I could to help build the Kingdom of God here and now, and that to do so would require courage not timidity, fear of God not fear of man. If you don't align yourself with the Kingdom of God in this life, how do you expect to be admitted into the Kingdom of God in the next?

And who are the people of humble circumstances of the Diocese of Little Rock?

Probably the same people whom I have served for over 27 years as a priest in Oklahoma, the same people whom my inspiring predecessors have served here in Arkansas in the past....

And I pray to God that the Lord will make me as good a shepherd for the Church and people of Arkansas as those on whose shoulders I now stand.
* * *

Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco might chair the USCCB's Committee for Commuications, but the Bay City see's site applied its usual bare-bones approach to the appointment of an auxiliary there, sharing merely the archbishop's statement... and not a word from Bishop-elect Bill Justice (left).

Lacking that, let the sentiments of a simple San Franciscan on the Western appointee -- Niederauer's delegate to the local chapter of Voice of the Faithful -- set the tone: "Bill Justice renews my hope that the Church can be reformed. A really good man."

Justice will be ordained on 28 May.

It might be the Easter Season... but looking at today's big picture, seems like there's another figure who's had a resurrection of his own this morning: Jean Jadot.

At least he's lived to see it.

PHOTOS: Diocese of Little Rock(1); Dan Morris-Young, Catholic San Francisco