Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Bending Toward Mercy

The following reflection on the readings of the day for September 20th is featured in the September 2023 issue of Give Us This Day from Liturgical Press


My eight-year-old nephew has taken to creating imaginative games. There are whimsical dance battles, intricate webs of hide-and-seek, and fanciful games in which everyone must do what they’re told. Because he’s often making up the rules of these games as we go, there is little room, in my nephew’s mind, for improvisation on the part of participants. Try doing something different and (more than likely) the game is over.

The same, it would seem, is true of those Jesus encounters in today’s Gospel. In their eyes, Jesus didn’t play by the rules. Like John the Baptist, Jesus challenged assumptions and pushed boundaries. What they had imagined the Messiah to be, Jesus wasn’t. He wept in sorrow and rejoiced with outcasts. He was fully human and utterly divine, a mystery beyond their—and our—wildest dreams.

This is the mystery of devotion Paul writes about in his letter to Timothy. This mystery is not some game we master but someone we come to know: Jesus the Christ. “Manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the spirit,” Jesus invites us into mystery, to grow in relationship with the unknowable and to bend our rules toward mercy. Our devotion demands that we reimagine what we think possible, embracing the unexpected and adopting the wisdom of Christ. This wisdom calls us into union with all—the rule makers and the rule breakers, those who suffer under our assumptions and those in whom we find the kinship of Christ—so that together we might become the Church of the living God that Christ calls us to be.


[CREDIT] Sr. Colleen Gibson, SSJ,  from the September 2023 issue of Give Us This Day, (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2023). Used with permission.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Take a Break this Summer... for your good and the good of the world!

 In my latest column for Global Sisters Report, I look at the need for rest as a critical aspect of engaging in life and our call to faithfulness. I hope that you get a chance to relax this summer amid work and apart from it. May the God of the Sabbath make space for the Spirit to expand in our resting and may we take the time we need so that that Spirit has room to breathe in us and the world!


Summer break can mean many things: days at the beach, time to curl up with a good book, or a pause amid the daily grind to reconnect with family and friends. With activities including barbecues, service projects, annual retreats and long weekends away, the summer offers a time to shift with the seasons, find a new rhythm, or (at least) put our current pace in perspective. 

For some, summer is a season of vacation, while for others, it is a busy time spent facilitating those spaces for others. Regardless of where you find yourself this summer, I think something about the "in between" moment of the season invites our recollection.  

Two email signoffs recently caught my attention. The first came as a response to my hope that the sister I was corresponding with was enjoying the change of pace that comes with summer. With kindness and honesty, she wrote of a few projects she needed to work on, after which she hoped "to enjoy this pace of which you speak!"

The second came from an acquaintance who knew I'd recently completed a degree program and hoped I would have a moment to breathe before moving on to my next ministry. "Hopefully, these days are feeling a little freer," she wrote before posing a few questions about a project we're preparing for later in the summer.

After reading each email, I took a deep breath, imagining the freedom we all hoped for in our responses. In between time, after all, is what we make of it, and such freedom is as hard (or as easy) to come by as we make it.

Looking at my summer calendar, I can see this truth playing out in real time. The difficulty of the in between is how we choose to embrace it. That embrace can be as easy as settling into a seaside lounge or as tight as a schedule packed back-to-back with engagements and appointments. In our busy lives, we sometimes see free time not as a time to rest but simply as available or otherwise unoccupied time. Rather than saving time for recharging, we often pack it with other to-dos and miss the regenerative power of being free and changing our pace.

Of course, we all face demands to do more. The reasons are many and varied. For some, time off isn't an option. With mouths to feed and bills to pay, time off is an unaffordable luxury. For others, the idea of taking a prolonged rest might seem to fly in the face of the pressing demands of our world. With all the suffering and injustice in the world, rest appears to be a luxury or disengagement from the things of the world that demand our attention and action. From this point of view, the question arises: How can we take time to just be when there is so much yet to be done

This question, of course, is a false dichotomy. Rest is neither solely for the rich or privileged, nor is it unavailable to the poor and marginalized. Rest is a universal need and right. We each are called to refill and make space in our own way. Rest is found in our making time and space and our intention in taking it. Actively choosing such rest is an act of resistance in a culture that demands productivity and directly correlates worth with activity and output. 

In her 2022 presidential address to the Catholic Theological Society of America, "Remembering the Rest of Life: Toward a Rest-Inflected Theology of Work and Action," Christine Firer Hinze makes a poignant plea for rest as part of our Christian call to action. "In the face of the potential endlessness of all the good work to be done," Firer Hinze asks, "how do we better understand, incorporate and advocate for good rest, not as a grudging accommodation to our finitude, but as an essential human, societal, and spiritual good?"

By framing rest as an essential element of faithful action, Firer Hinze calls all people of goodwill to account for the nature and underlying motivation of our rest, examining our resistance to rest and the grounding power inherent in genuine rest. 

Finding rest means facing the pressure to produce and the perception that productivity defines our worth. Solutions to such culturally pre-programmed restlessness are not simple, or one-size-fits-all. Part of learning to rest comes from reevaluating the unhealthy standards we've set for ourselves.

Early in my religious life, I remember meeting with a wisdom figure in my congregation about what advice she would offer a younger member. "Say yes to whatever you are asked to do," she replied wholeheartedly. 

I sincerely believe that she was telling me to be open to opportunities and share my gifts with a sense of abundance. Yet her response also delivered a message about working without abandon (or rest). Years later, I realized you can't say yes to everything. You must choose wisely, discerning when 'yes' is a prudent response and when rest might be a better choice for all involved.

In time, I've come to cherish those people in my life who have modeled such regenerative and integrated habits of rest, prayer and service. Their example challenges me to reevaluate my work patterns and find rest amid and apart from my everyday life. As Firer Hinze highlights, such rest is integral to embodying a just love of ourselves, our God, our neighbors and all creation. 

Drawing on the work of Tricia Hersey, the founder of The Nap Ministry, we would be right to embrace a space of rest this summer — to grow in community and faith. This is because rest is not a solitary endeavor but a communal effort and investment. Restoring ourselves gives back to the communities we belong to. Rest enables us to rely on others; it makes us vulnerable and lets us lean into the support and care of others.

Rest also humbles us. Our need for rest shows us that we are human. To be faithful to the practice of rest both amid our service and apart from it is an act of faithful charity. We rest so that we can better love, and by resting, we recognize that rest — the very act of sabbath-making — is part of our call as people of faith.

Learning to rest and applying those lessons is countercultural. As I stress about the projects that lie ahead and a new ministry on the horizon, I feel the temptation to fill my time, to be productive in the service of something other than the call to be present to the feelings of the in between. Resting this summer is a call to develop patterns and practices of rest in every season of our lives. That is a call that I, at least, could use practice in answering. (Maybe you could, too.)

As we look toward the months ahead and the mountains of things that could or should be done, why not spend some time away with friends, family or God (or all three!)? For in that restful space... read the rest of the article on GSR

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Give Us This Day: "Five Simple Words"

My reflection on today's readings from Give Us This Day:

Be it a time of distress, a moment of loss, or a season of uncertainty, sometimes the greatest offer we can receive is the promise of prayer. I will pray for you. With those five simple words, what I once held alone (or that which I felt held me captive) is transformed from a solitary burden to a communal endeavor. Whatever was mine is now ours. The blessed assurance being that together we, each in our own way, will hold the intention at the heart of our conversation with God.  

We trust this promise because we hear it in Jesus’ own prayer. Facing the imminence of his death, Jesus’ words fold in on themselves—a rapid-fire succession of “you in me” and “I in them” and “they in us” that can boggle our minds if we don’t pause to hold the heart of his prayer. Transcending time, Jesus is emphatically praying for us: that all may be one, in God and for God, forever and always. 

 Listening to Jesus pray, our hearts are stirred. In this crucial moment, Jesus reminds us who we are and who—in union with others—we are called to be. What’s more, he reminds us whose we are. We are God’s—a beloved people, a gift given and received. 

In the intimate prayer of Christ, we know this to be true. Despite the darkness of night, we, like Paul, hear God say, “Take courage.” We can do this because Jesus has prayed and continues to pray for us and with us. Knowing we are lovingly held in the heart of God, we are called to love one another, so that the resurrected Christ might be known in our union and our lives might be the answer to Jesus’ prayer. 

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Friday, May 5, 2023

Votes and Voices: The tent is expanding

In my latest column for the Global Sisters Report, I reflect on the recent news about the expansion of voting in the Synod of Bishops/Synod on Synodality to non-bishop members, including women and other lay people. Check it out!


The tent is expanding. I repeat, the tent is expanding. 


Last week (April 26) the Vatican office in charge of the synod on synodality made a historic announcement: Women will be able to vote at October's assembly, the first time women and lay people will be allowed to vote at a meeting of the Synod of Bishops.

As the International Union of Superiors General, or UISG, lauded in its press release this week, the move to allow women to vote "enriches ecclesial dynamism, manifesting openness and readiness to welcome God's newness in gradually renewing the Church by revealing its full richness," all while preserving the synod's episcopal nature.

In some ways this is a logical next step in the growing movement of synodality in the church. It should have been expected, and still to have the votes and voices of women acknowledged, affirmed, and uplifted feels like a big (if not also a long anticipated) step on the journey towards church governance and direction setting that is more inclusive of the entire people of God.  

Anticipating that the work of the October assembly will include issues surrounding women's roles in the church and LGBTQ relationships, among a cavalcade of other issues, it's encouraging to know that the diversity of voices at the table will be increased. And yet, there is still more expansion that awaits us if we're willing to be stretched by the Spirit.

"We are all called to become an active part of a relational, inclusive and dialoguing Church" Sr. Nadia Coppa of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, president of the UISG, commented this week. This includes those few hundred who will have a vote at the synod and the millions more whose voices have lifted their voices thus far in the current synodal process.  

In an informative piece of news analysis out this week, Sebastian Gomes of America traces the growing desire and demand over the last 10 years for women to be able to vote at the Synod of Bishops. Swelling support speaks to the collaborative model Francis has tried to put forward in the synodality that has characterized his pontificate, and also the growing realization that for our church to truly be catholic, we need to listen to the voices of the people of God.  

This listening will now include the right to vote. Come October, about 1 in 5 of the synod's 370 participants will be non-bishops, with at least 1 in every 10 being a woman. Ten percent may not feel like a lot and yet the double-digit figure is encouraging. As research from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute suggests, "when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society."

Of course, the synod participants are all individuals with their own opinions and we trust that the Spirit is at work in the synod on synodality. Yet, having women at the table can only enrich the conversation and the ability for all participants to vote on the synod's concluding document promises a more representative mode of participation.     

The matters of concern for women, after all, are matters of concern for the world. As Sr. Mary Luke Tobin, one of the 15 women auditors (see: non-voting) originally invited to the Second Vatican Council, famously retorted when told that she could only attend council sessions of "particular concern" for women: "Good, that means I can attend them all." I can only imagine the impact women voting at the Second Vatican Council would have had.

Yet, I wonder too who else's voices and votes need to be at the tables of power as we move forward on the synodal way. It's important to have women represented and to have people from all of the continental assemblies in attendance. Still, I wonder about LGBTQIA+ individuals … will they be represented? What about gender nonbinary persons? What about those who remain unseen in our church, those who are disregarded, and those who we don't envision immediately when we use the term "the laity"? 

So often when we use the term "lay people," we think of people like us … but what if we are being invited to expand the tent of our perception to include those beyond our own circles or preconceptions?  

A contingent of only a little over 70 non-bishop (and hopefully predominantly lay) representatives at the October assembly makes an expansive sense of representation difficult at the highest levels of the synod. We certainly can (and should) rejoice in those whose voices and votes will be counted and included. The question, considering the size of that assembly though, is how we are going to enlarge the space of our tents at other levels too? To welcome a diversity of voices on the ground level of the church, in parish, school, and social settings.

Where are there spaces of welcome to be created? Who are new neighbors for us to meet? How are we being called to push out the walls of our secure church structures to let the Spirit blow through? Like God the Creator breathing life into the dust, new life might thus spring forth. We might find ourselves rejoicing in opportunities we never thought possible, avenues we didn't deem viable, and situations made more hospitable.

With each new step on the synodal way, surprises are surfacing as our footsteps kick up the dust of new life. This dust shows us that walking the Way stirs things up, a process of mess making that ultimately holds hope...Finish reading on Global Sister Report

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Dirty Dishes & the Cross

 In these holy days of the Triduum there is much to ponder- the mystery of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ, the call to hope, and the encounter with suffering. in the midst of it all, I've offered the following reflection for the U.S. Federation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph for their series of Lenten Reflections. Today may be Holy Thursday, but I pray this Good Friday message reaching you wherever you are.

I have always loved Holy Thursday. That might seem like an odd way to start out a reflection on Good Friday, but as I sit with the many questions and the somberness of this day, I can’t help but recall that initial love found in foot washing, students turned friends, and memories of a dinner party we recall with each Eucharist.

Today, on Good Friday, I imagine the dirty dishes left behind. Signs of what was hoped for, quietly held in the stillness of a story gone awry. The cross is not what the disciples had anticipated. They surely had imagined triumph like we saw on Palm Sunday, a lauded Messiah who would save an oppressed people, who would overturn structures of domination and suffering just as surely as he had flipped the tables in the Temple.

Suffering is not on the top of any of our lists of what it means to be a follower of Christ.

And yet, today we stand at the foot of the cross and wonder: how did all this happen? What does it mean for us? Why did it have to happen and why would God let it? Simply and emphatically, why?

The answers to these questions resound in silence. They come with tears and grief, mourning and weeping, pain and anguish. These are natural responses to injustice and evil in our world. Any easy answers offered for such a catastrophe should certainly be deemed suspect.

God didn’t send Jesus to die on the cross. Jesus died because he claimed who he was and preached the Gospel- proclaiming good news to the poor, freedom for prisoners, and healing for the outcast. This Good News was a call to right relationship with God and with every neighbor without distinction. It threatened the status quo, and for this, Jesus was killed. Ultimately, what Jesus’ death on the cross reveals is the fullness of God’s love for humanity.

This love draws us into union with God. It is what is so beautifully expressed on Holy Thursday and so heartbreakingly snuffed out on Good Friday.

On this day, when we venerate the cross it’s important to remember that Jesus gave his life not only for salvation from sin but also, in the words of theologian Jon Sobrino, for freedom “from any sort of oppression, inner and outer, spiritual and physical, personal and social.” That freedom calls us to act for justice, wherever life is threatened or senselessly lost. We are called to be agents of unity, bearing hope amid our mourning, faithful friends actively upholding the promise of new life Jesus offers us.

For Reflection:

-        -Take time today to reflect on the places of despair and injustice in our world. Who suffers senselessly? How is life being threatened? What would it mean to venerate unifying love in these situations?

-         -They say on Good Friday the world stood still. If you can, try walking outside today. Imagine Jesus is walking with you. What would you want to say to Jesus? What might Jesus be trying to say to you?

What does it mean for you to bear hope in the shadow of the cross? 

Friday, March 17, 2023

Beyond a '40-Day Challenge': 14th-century wisdom for 21st-century prayer

First off, my apologies for some delayed posts here on the blog... lots of things happening in life have drawn my attention away but alas, here I am! This latest post comes from a March column for Global Sisters Report. Even as Lent comes to a close, there is wisdom from those who came before us that can guide us through this season and the many seasons of our lives. Prayers for all as we make the journey!- C


At the outset of Lent, I chuckled when a friend sent me a clip about Ash Wednesday from the morning television program "Today," featuring the actor Mark Wahlberg. With ashes on his forehead, Wahlberg shared with the show's host about Lent. Scrawled across the bottom of the screen, the captioned title for the segment read "Mark Wahlberg's 40-Day Challenge."

Absurd as the notion of Lent as a 40-day challenge might seem — as if it were a fad diet or an exercise routine — the way many people approach the season isn't too far from the concept of challenge. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving can easily devolve into challenges to be mastered and tasks at which to excel.

Of course, that's not the purpose or the aim of Lent. We pray, fast and give freely so that we might more freely embrace and deepen our relationship with God. It is a challenge to simplify that is anything but simple. There is no mastering these practices (i.e., you can't "win" Lent), but only the invitation to wholeheartedly pursue them in these 40 days with the hope that the lasting effect and ongoing practice of them might transform our lives in the long run.

To that end, it is prayer that grounds the entire journey of Lent and the Christian life. Whether you are an apostle, a 14th-century mystic, or a 21st-century seeker, prayer roots our relationship with God; it is the focus of our fasting and the impetus of our giving. Without prayer none of this makes sense and yet, in the busy lives we lead, prayer is often the first thing to be cut short.

Perhaps this is because prayer at times can feel intangible. On a long journey, it feels like we need to be more active, like there must be something we can do. The reality, though, is that the best thing we can do is simply show up.

"Labour hard in this nothing and this nowhere," the 14th-century author of The Cloud of Unknowing writes to a spiritual novice seeking to learn how to pray. That is the hard work of contemplation, of seeking union and finding that beyond anything else, you simply (or not so simply) need to show up to be united with God in prayer.

One night, early on in my candidacy as a Sister of St. Joseph, I found myself sitting in the small chapel in the local convent into which I had just moved. This was a regular occurrence. Making the transition into religious life was no small feat. As I navigated the newness of that moment, I held on to advice I had received from a spiritual director years earlier: show up every day.

That director didn't have this transition in mind when she offered the advice. In fact, her words were more about making a habit of prayer. "No matter what, show up to pray," I remember her telling me.

She wasn’t quoting The Cloud of Unknowing or Meister Eckhart but the core sentiment of her advice draws off the wisdom of these spiritual classics. To be present to God, she advised me, requires the removal of obstacles.

Now certainly, obstacles in prayer aren't easily removed. We can't simply will ourselves to pray or command God to appear. Our minds still wander and preoccupations can still intrude. What we can do is create a landscape that is conducive to prayer, a time and place ordered by regularity. Such a place is not devoid of character or free from distraction, but it is simplified by radical reliability. Create patterns. Show up in the same space at the same time everyday and you'll be amazed by what can happen.

Confronting the distractions that often come in prayer, the late 14th-century author of The Cloud of Unknowing advises the one who wishes to show up in prayer to "do your best to pretend not to know that they [the distractions] are pressing so hard upon you." Such pretending can be hard though, and so the author has the novice imagine the distraction butting in "between you and your God." Like an unwelcome interlocutor at a party, when all you really want to do is be with and talk to a dear friend, distractions in prayer may be swayed if you "try to look over their shoulders, as it were, searching for something else." Dispatching distraction with a spiritual cold shoulder, we can focus on the One we've shown up to see, the One for whom we long— God.

If looking past distraction doesn't work, the Cloud author offers another technique: admit defeat.

"Cower down before [your distractions] like a wretched coward overcome in battle." This dramatic response is the spiritual equivalent of throwing up your hands in surrender. It is an admission that prayer is not something we do on our own. In fact, it's not our doing at all. We show up and God does the rest.

As Meister Eckhart preached in the time preceding The Cloud of Unknowing, "Some simple people think that they will see God as if he were standing there and they here. It is not so. God and I, we are one. I accept God into me in knowing; I go into God in loving." That is to say: we are called into union with God by our very being.

Thus, "knowing God" is not a call to comprehensive knowledge but rather to open yourself completely to a God you cannot comprehend, to know that you do not and cannot know God totally and to be free in that.

The same can be said of loving. One goes "into God in loving" as one returns to the source of Love, the Word, deep within them. This return is the call of all created beings. We come from a God who is love and are called to return to God by loving.

The "work" we set out to undertake in prayer is union with God. In a liturgical season like Lent, we strive to deepen our relationship with God through intentional prayer and action that draw us closer to the One who has made us in and for love.

Sometimes that love is conveyed in the smallest of words: Thanks. Love. Peace. Trust. You.

Focusing our prayer with these short, deceptively simple words grounds us in the moment and allows us to surrender to God, who longs to be with us in this moment.

“Short prayers pierce heaven,” the author of The Cloud of Unknowing instructs the novice pray-er. Centuries later we might listen too to the wisdom of these insights. Keep it simple. For all the uncertainty we face, simple presence offers us the opportunity to break through to a deeper sense of knowing and being with God. That presence is far greater than any 40-day challenge, it is the work of a lifetime.

Choosing to pray in this way is a practice of simplicity and humility. God embraces us as we are, challenging us to go deeper, to give freely and to love abundantly. Centuries of practice show us that embracing that challenge — showing up and bearing all to God in loving union— is certainly worth undertaking … not only for our own being but for the life of the world.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Black Joy & "The Embrace"

The following is my latest column from Global Sisters Report about the experience of witnessing the unveiling of the new monument in Boston Common, "The Embrace" and what its message and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King has to offer us in understanding Black joy and the call to community and justice. 

On Friday, Jan. 13, a new sculpture honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, was unveiled in the Boston Common. Standing over 20 feet tall and 40 feet wide, the bronze sculpture depicting a joyful embrace following the announcement that Dr. King was being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize has been met with praise for its innovative concept and much maligned for everything from its disembodiment of the figures to confusing perceptions of what one is seeing when they look at the statue from various angles.

What was lifted up for weeks on the local news in Boston and nationally as a beacon of hope and a monument to love is now facing the question: "Will the public embrace 'The Embrace'?"

Making my way to the Boston Common — the United States' oldest public park — on the morning of the unveiling, the divisive maelstrom yet to come was the furthest thing from my mind. Emerging from the "T" (Boston's subway system), I found myself immersed in an atmosphere of excitement. Despite rainy weather that gave way to overcast skies, crowds gathered in anticipation of the unveiling.

Like many of my fellow onlookers, I was surprised to find the monument and grandstand for the celebration quartered off by metal fencing covered in opaque material. We all apparently had missed the memo that the ceremony was by invitation only and yet as crowds assembled both inside and outside the designated 1965 Freedom Plaza, a celebratory spirit filled the air.

This project, after all, had been a community effort. While "The Embrace" was the vision of artist Hank Willis Thomas, executed in concert with the MASS Design Group, the larger project that led to this day was a years long effort of consultation, community-building and consciousness-raising.

Beginning in 2017 with the intent of honoring the Kings, whose relationship began in Boston and whose civil rights work returned them to the city over the years, the nonprofit organization Embrace Boston solicited financial backers for a memorial and engine of social change in the city (with projects reaching far beyond the memorial to affect change in neighborhoods historically underserved in Boston).

That same year, the organization put out a call for artists that yielded hundreds of proposals for a monument. Eventually the field was narrowed to five candidates by the memorial's sponsor, and with public input, Thomas' "The Embrace" was ultimately selected to be erected in the Common.

Positioning myself on an incline overlooking the day's festivities, I watched as people dressed in suits and skirts mingled with those in destressed denim and sneakers. Everyone had gathered for this momentous occasion. No rain or restricted views could dampen spirits. The fabric on the fences was soon torn down by onlookers, so that despite the metal fence they too could have a vision of the monument.

As bands began to play and politicians gave speeches in commemoration of the Kings and their legacy, I watched as parents ushered school-aged children up to the fences, the closest onlookers making way so that the littlest could have a front row (or at least fence) view of the proceedings.

The thing that was most palpable, though, about the day was a sense of Black joy. Embrace Boston's vision statement commits to "a radically inclusive and equitable Boston where everyone belongs and Black people prosper, grounded in joy, love, and wellbeing."

Joy isn't something you can fabricate. It comes naturally from the heart. Joy rises out of freedom, liberation, fullness.

"The joy of Black faith is a people coming together, praising and saying hallelujah to a God that is freedom," the Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas told Kidada Williams on the podcast "Seizing Freedom." "Because to me that is an affirmation of life in the face of death. It's God's 'No!' to anything that would deny Black life."

This joy is a resistance. It has the last word and it calls forth justice, so that all may be free.

As I listened to the speakers at the unveiling of "The Embrace," the words of Jha D Amazi, a principal partner in the MASS Design Group that helped bring the statue to life, resonated with me.

"It has been very hard for me as a daughter of Boston to maintain composure and not bawl," Amazi told the crowd gathered. "This is such a beautiful moment for me as a person but then you add the layers and the intersectionality of my Blackness, of my womanhood, of again me being a native of Boston and then to be offered the opportunity as a architect, as a young Black architect educated in this city to participate in a moment like this where we honor the Black experience, Black joy, Black love, in the oldest park in the country."

That joy and love were freely wafting in the air.

"I am reminded that we are called to do this work. And — this y'all — this is on purpose. This is on time. This is on our shoulders."Amazi concluded.

In this moment, the call was clear — it was a call to joyful embodiment, freedom and resistance. Here, a community had come together for the good of the whole. The beloved community that the Kings advocated for throughout their lifetimes was made manifest then and there. Was it perfect? No. But there was union in purpose, solidarity in joy, and hope in community.

As Coretta Scott King wrote, "To me, the Beloved Community is a realistic vision of an achievable society, one in which problems and conflict exist, but are resolved peacefully and without bitterness."

This community works to eliminate poverty and hunger, bigotry and violence, for the sake of all.

To attain this Beloved Community requires that enough people commit to education and training, courage and sustained action, especially those in the white community. It requires embracing joy and recognizing that our joy is only complete when it is joined with the joy of others, those who are oppressed, and with God's joy.

Amid the debates over the design of "The Embrace" as a monument — its figural exclusion of the Kings' faces, its perceived diminishment of their radical message to one of simple love, and challenge of perspective to the all-encompassing vantage — it would be a shame if the gifts of community that went into its creation and the joy it encapsulates were lost.

That is the joy with which the Kings embraced originally when Dr. King won the Nobel Peace Prize. That joy is tied to justice, to the love of God active in the world and in the Kings' relationship. Sustaining joy and justice are our call today.

As Martin Luther King declared at the end of his Nobel Lecture in 1964,

I am not yet discouraged about the future. Granted that the easygoing optimism of yesterday is impossible. Granted that those who pioneer in the struggle for peace and freedom will still face uncomfortable jail terms, painful threats of death; they will still be battered by the storms of persecution, leading them to the nagging feeling that they can no longer bear such a heavy burden, and the temptation of wanting to retreat to a more quiet and serene life. Granted that we face a world crisis which leaves us standing so often amid the surging murmur of life's restless sea. But every crisis has both its dangers and its opportunities. It can spell either salvation or doom. In a dark confused world the kingdom of God may yet reign in the hearts of men.

If we can embrace that vision of a love that does justice... Finish the piece here