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Spiritual Focus - January 2016

At Swarthmore, we are about to begin a new semester. For the first time, the College is not beginning the term with classes and ordinary work schedules on Martin Luther King Day. Instead, we have been encouraged to use this first day back to commemorate Dr. King with service, memorials, reflection. How fitting, at long last, that we at this College take time out from ordinary life to reflect and act upon his legacy. How fitting, in this new year, with its upcoming election. How fitting, in this time of grief and unrest and growing inequality in our nation and in the world. Now, more than ever, we need to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King.

And so on Monday, and all week long, we at Swarthmore will gather to remember his dream. We will pledge ourselves to the hard work of making that dream a reality. We will remind one another of the painful truth that, for so many, it is a dream long deferred. We will promise to continue this difficult work, speaking truth to power, recognizing when we ourselves are complicit in that power. We will hold one another accountable for these promises.

But let us not forget the source from which King drew his strength. That was from prayer. We remember that he was a Reverend, and not just a Doctor. As a man of faith he knew that he was human, and limited, and could not walk this difficult path without help from something outside himself. For that help he leaned heavily upon his God, and upon his beloved community. He looked to the Scriptures for his vision and his hope. He was a man of great stature who was yet not too proud to fall on his knees.

And so as we re-commit ourselves to the dream, let us remind ourselves how these postures are linked. It is the willingness to be humbled that opens our hearts to receive strength when it is most needed. This is the vocation of all who are called to continue King's legacy in the world. The work of justice is not easy. The proclamation of hope can be wearying. The sharing of others' suffering is a heavy burden. The recognition of our own complicity can be most challenging of all. No one can bear these tasks alone.

There is refreshment available, no matter how long or hard the struggle. May this reflection strengthen us for the work ahead. May this time of learning and fellowship remind us that we need one another. And may we work together to make King's dream of peace and justice become true in our time. For before it was his dream, it was God's dream. May it be our dream today, and every day.