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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Looby

Feast of St. Augustine

Today, we celebrate a convergence of spiritual richness. On this day, we commemorate not just one, but two monumental figures in the journey toward truth and justice: St. Augustine and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As we delve into the Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 23, verses 13 to 22, we see how both of these men's lives echo the teachings of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel reading we've just heard presents us with a confrontational Jesus, rebuking the Pharisees and scribes for their hypocrisy. He criticizes them for making the Kingdom of Heaven difficult to enter, for converting people only to make them twice the sons of Hell, and for focusing on minor rules while neglecting justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

This Gospel passage invites us to consider how we, too, might sometimes fall into the pitfalls of religious hypocrisy or empty ritual. It encourages us to turn away from focusing solely on the 'letter of the law' and instead aim to fulfill the 'spirit of the law.' This call resonates profoundly with the lives of St. Augustine and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

St. Augustine, whose feast day we celebrate today, is renowned for his conversion from a life of sin and worldly ambition to a life in Christ. His "Confessions" reveal a man who initially sought truth in many places, only to find it fully in the teachings of Christ. Augustine is a powerful example of someone who moved from a focus on earthly things to a life guided by the virtues that Jesus advocates—justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

Likewise, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose iconic "I Have a Dream" speech celebrates its anniversary today, fought for justice and equality by grounding his activism in his Christian faith. He saw the interconnectedness of all human beings as children of God and took the Gospel call to love one's neighbor to its ultimate expression. King's fight against racial segregation and discrimination was a modern-day continuation of Jesus' battle against hypocrisy and injustice.

Both St. Augustine and Dr. King understood the essence of today's Gospel. They realized that an authentic faith calls us to transform not just ourselves but also the society in which we live. In their struggles—St. Augustine’s against his inner turmoils and Dr. King's against societal injustice—they epitomized the Christian journey towards truth and righteousness.

So, as we reflect on these extraordinary lives on this special day, let us ask ourselves: How are we responding to Jesus’ call for justice, mercy, and faithfulness? Are we mere gatekeepers, or are we bridge builders leading others to the Kingdom of Heaven?

As we receive the Eucharist today, may we be nourished and inspired to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, St. Augustine, and Dr. King. May we strive to be not merely hearers of the Word, but doers—advocates for justice, heralds of mercy, and exemplars of faith.


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