By Tom Quiner
On this Martin Luther King today, I can’t help but reflect on two moral giants of the era: Martin Luther King Jr. AND Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Why mention Mother Teresa on Martin Luther King’s day? Because both pursued parallel missions propelled by their faith in God. Both gave every ounce of their being on behalf of the “little guy.”
Who are these little guys? The poor. The marginalized. The objectified. The unwanted. The inconvenient. Those of the wrong color. Those in the wrong place, the womb, at the wrong time.
The contrast between the two was striking.
Mother Teresa didn’t know how to deliver a speech very well. She’d stand at a podium and read her speech without looking up at the audience. When she finished, she’d leave without fanfare.
Martin Luther King knew how to deliver a speech very well. He’d engage his audience with the passion of man on a Godly mission. His speeches had a rhythm, a carefully controlled cadence that kept listeners enraptured. He was a leader, a moral authority sent by God to right a terrible wrong in this country.
Interestingly, despite her rhetorical shortcomings, Mother Teresa, too, kept her audience on the edge of the seat through the sheer power of her moral authority.
Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” is a work of art. Read it in the quiet of your room and you will be roused from your chair.
Mother Teresa’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. in 1994 is also a work of art. Read it in the quiet of your room and you will be moved to tears.
Let us compare a few similarities in their messages.
Dr. King said,
We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.
He was addressing one of the shames of this great country, violence directed at innocent people by the people who were supposed to protect them. Mother Teresa had a similar concern:
But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?
She, too, addressed the issue of violence directed at innocent people by the people who were supposed to protect them.
Dr. King voiced his concerns about the children:
We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
Mother Teresa talked about how our hope lies in children, just as Dr. King said children must have hope:
“Let us bring the child back.” The child is God’s gift to the family. Each child is created in the special image and likeness of God for greater things – to love and to be loved. In this year of the family we must bring the child back to the center of our care and concern. This is the only way that our world can survive because our children are the only hope for the future. As older people are called to God, only their children can take their places.
Hope. We thirst for hope. In one of the great inspirational flourishes of his generation, Dr. King invoked his hope for America
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
Mother Teresa invoked the beauty of hope in an incident that occurred in Calcutta:
Then there was the man we picked up from the drain, half eaten by worms and, after we had brought him to the home, he only said: ”I have lived like an animal in the street, but I am going to die as an angel, loved and cared for.” Then, after we had removed the worms from his body, all he said, with a big smile, was: “Sister, I am going home to God” -and he died. It was so wonderful to see the greatness of that man who could speak like that without blaming anybody, without comparing anything. Like an angel – this greatness of people who are spiritually rich even when they are materially poor.
Dr. King and Mother Teresa loved the poor and the downtrodden. They taught us to respect the dignity of life. We live in undignified times. We need their message today, a message of human rights from conception to natural death.
From their perch in heaven, we humbly ask them to pray for us.