This year, with fitting irony and great poignancy, the anniversary of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination falls on Easter Sunday.
For millennia before Christ, and long before it had been given a name, Easter has marked a time of rebirth, of resurrection from the dead of winter. It celebrates a time when day outlives night.
And yet April can be the cruelest month, and on April 4th, 1968, one of America's leading lights, perhaps its brightest, was snuffed out.
For the crime of opposing a profitable bloodshed in a faraway land, he was brutally silenced. For the transgression of bringing together a divided people to oppose poverty, he was marked for death by the powerful among his own countrymen.
Today, as efforts to divide black from white from brown intensify, as speech is muzzled and the speakers are canceled, as millions who have lost their jobs and small businesses plunge into poverty, as sabres rattle once more and new powers of darkness rise over the earth, we might take some comfort in these words from a sermon Dr. King gave on a long ago Easter Sunday in 1959, with so many struggles already behind him and so many others still ahead:
"And so this morning, let us not be disillusioned. Let us not lose faith. So often we’ve been crucified. We’ve been buried in numerous graves—the grave of economic insecurity, the grave of exploitation, the grave of oppression. We’ve watched justice trampled over and truth crucified. But I’m here to tell you this morning, Easter reminds us that it won’t be like that all the way. It reminds us that God has a light that can shine amid all the darkness."