Down on our hands and knees - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington. Photo by Sins S on Unsplash

Heated debates and intense arguments, hatred and fear-mongering – for some time, how I have grown so tired and frustrated by the polarization engulfing us. Our tribal isolation fueled by social media or news outlets and our inability to find common ground for dialogue fuel a toxicity of distrust, cynicism and judgment. I imagine most of us are worn down by the division, negativity and culture wars.

As I watched the recent attack on the Capitol, I was overcome with sadness about our current state of affairs. Paying attention to the fear and anxiety stirring within, I believe we also got a glimpse of what many experience every day in countries with authoritarian and oppressive governments.

What then to do with all of this? The image that most moved me in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection was that of Representative Andy Kim cleaning up the debris left in the Capitol rotunda at 3 a.m. He was down on his hands and knees, picking it up piece by piece — water bottles, cigarette butts, broken glass, strewn garbage — after a painful day.

Maybe that is a starting point, getting down on our hands and knees. I’m not saying we just need to pray. Might we all reclaim some genuine humility, recognizing that no one has all the answers, and somehow start from a place of truth — that we are all truly broken — and seek ways to pick each other up, one by one, community by community, nation by nation?

Jesus tells us, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13: 34). And: “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). These commandments are a tough order these days. And yet, Jesus knew that the only path to the reign of God is through love and respectful relationship. Borrowing a phrase from Irish theologian Father Diarmuid O’Murchu, the reign of God is birthed in part through our “companionship of empowerment” by which we commit ourselves to inclusion, mercy, and healing as Jesus did.

As we honor the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday and anticipate the peaceful transition of power in the U.S. two days later, let us seeks ways to re-create and co-create in Christ-like companionship. In this way, may we empower our nation and the global community onward to the “Beloved Community” that King so beautifully described in his 1957 address on “The Role of the Church in Facing the Nation’s Chief Moral Dilemma.”

“But the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opposers into friends. The type of love that I stress here is … agape, which is understanding goodwill for all [people]. It is an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. It is the love of God working in the lives of [people]. This is the love that may well be the salvation of our civilization.”


Ted Miles
Ted Miles is the former executive director of Maryknoll Lay Missioners.