I Have Called You to Be My Servant

by Scott Wright, Director

The LORD said to me: You are my servant,
Israel, through whom I show my glory.
Now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb….
It is too little, the LORD says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. -
Isaiah 49:3, 5-6

On the first Sunday after the Epiphany, the Baptism of the Lord, we hear the passage this passage from the prophet Isaiah. It is a great call to service, to be a light to the nations so that by our actions we may bear witness to the hope for salvation throughout the earth.

Imagine for a moment, what that hope might look like to a refugee or migrant, to those families which experience the terrible suffering of violence or war, or to those communities that experience the devastating effects of climate change, severe weather events, droughts and floods.

How do we, through our fidelity to the Gospel, bear witness to God’s mercy and justice?

This week we commemorate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a great prophet in our midst whose life and the life of his people were a light to the nations. Like Isaiah, he too was a person of hope: “The arc of the moral universe is long,” he said, “but it bends toward justice.”

Pope Francis is another person of hope. In his message for the World Day of Peace, “Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace,” he invites us “to make active nonviolence our way of life . . . To be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence.”

He continued, “As my predecessor Benedict XVI observed:

For Christians, nonviolence is not merely tactical behavior but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he or she is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the Christian revolution.’”

We pray that, together, the light of faith, hope and love may shine brightly this year in our efforts to promote mercy and justice for the poor, and to bear witness to this great light! Here are six spiritual practices, or fundamental tenets of Dr. Martin Luther King’s philosophy of nonviolence described in his first book, Stride toward Freedom, which we can take to hear in our faith journey this year:

  • PRINCIPLE ONE: Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people
    • It is active nonviolent resistance to evil. 
    • It is aggressive spiritually, mentally and emotionally.  
  • PRINCIPLE TWO: Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.
    • The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation. 
    • The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.                                                                                                        
  • PRINCIPLE THREE: Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people.
    • Nonviolence recognizes that evildoers are also victims and are not evil people. 
    • The nonviolent resister seeks to defeat evil not people.
  • PRINCIPLE FOUR: Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform.
    • Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation. 
    • Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.    
  • PRINCIPLE FIVE: Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.
    • Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as the body.           
    • Nonviolent love is spontaneous, unmotivated, unselfish and creative.  
  • PRINCIPLE SIX: Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.
    • The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win. 
    • Nonviolence believes that God is a God of justice.    

Weekly Reflections on Justice is produced by the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach staff, volunteers, interns, and visiting Columban Missionaries. We hope these reflections help to guide you in your own spiritual journey working toward justice, peace, and the integrity of creation.