Just before sunset on the brisk winter night of Jan. 19, 2021, our dear Cardinal Wilton
Gregory spiritually escorted the world to the wisdom post of heaven. Echoing towering words of inspiration with spiritual vigor, his stance in holiness captivated millions of television viewers. Cardinal Gregory proclaimed words of solace for the millions whose loved ones transitioned to the gates of heaven due to the pandemic. Listening to his soulful and hopeful prayer, my soul recalled the African American Spiritual, "There is a Balm in Gilead."
This is an excerpt from the petition in the prayer by Cardinal Gregory: "May our prayer strengthen our awareness of our common humanity and our national unity at a time when harmony is a balm that seeks to comfort and strengthen us as a single people facing a common threat that is no respecter of age, race, culture or gender." This truly resonated with me. Our cardinal prays for common humanity and unity, while the narrative for a long time in this country, for some, has been a they versus us mentality, an eye for an eye, or we are superior. However, these words, "harmony is a balm that seeks to comfort and strengthen us," raised my spiritual antenna from the depths of my soul.
The words of Cardinal Gregory, "harmony is a balm," reminded me of the prophet Jeremiah, who prayed, "We wait for peace to no avail; for a time of healing, but terror comes instead." Jeremiah would later say, "I am in mourning; horror has seized me. Is there no balm in Gilead, no healer there?" (Jer. 8:22:23) Jeremiah's question was appropriate, attempting to make meaning for individuals during his time. Having no peace and healing is terrifying. Jeremiah acted sensibly by seeking after the one true God who could heal a nation and provide peace amid sorrow. Jeremiah asked the right question, "Is there a balm in Gilead, no healer there?" Do you think that Jeremiah was looking for "harmony as a balm?" as he sought comfort and strength?
Likewise, slaves in this country used Jeremiah's oracle to help them walk the stony road to freedom. They, too, perhaps looked for harmony as a balm as they sought the God of their weary years and silent tears. And yet, the slaves, after reading Jeremiah's words, were silent no more as they soon bellowed out a song from Jeremiah's text. Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s commentary on Jeremiah's thoughts and the slave's interpretation of the text is encouraging. Dr. King said:
Centuries later our slave foreparents came along. And they too saw
the injustices of life, and had nothing to look forward to morning
after morning but the rawhide whip of the overseer, long rows of
cotton in the sizzling heat. But they did an amazing thing. They
looked back across the centuries and they took Jeremiah's question
mark and straightened it into an exclamation point. And they could
sing, "There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole.
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul."
'Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool' sermon Dr. Rev.
Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered on this day in 1967
During biblical times, Jeremiah's faith community asked the question, "Is there a balm in Gilead?" And as we, the descendants of slaves in this country, who declared that there is a God of justice, we too mirror their actions. As countless individuals mourned their lost due to the Covid19 pandemic and the blatant, pervasive racial hatred and bigotry, we look for the Spirit of Jesus in the hospital and the courtroom. We, too, seek comfort and strength because the Covid 19 pandemic is not going anywhere any time soon. And the KKK is not dead. We need Jesus to be the balm in America to heal our weary souls. In Jesus, there is harmony; we are one.
Therefore I say, "Pray on, Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory." We need harmony as a balm to comfort the wounded hearts of families who were unable to hold their loved ones' hand when their eyes closed. This holy spiritual ointment is necessary because of the many ritual practices we cannot perform during the homegoing services. This balm is desperately needed for our health as many are full of anxiety, which can lead to more compromising health issues. In Jesus, there is harmony; we are one.
Yes! Pray on Cardinal Gregory. Harmony is needed. The new administration requires cooperation from across the aisle to relieve our financial stress. Our country must be ruled with racial justice for all people, including people of color, regardless of age, race, or gender.
Sing or pray these words with me as we declared there is a balm in America.
There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.
If you cannot preach like Peter
If you cannot pray like Paul
You can tell the love of Jesus
And say, "He died for all."
Don't ever feel discouraged
For Jesus is your friend
And if you lack of knowledge
He'll ne'er refuse to lend
Authored: Evangelist Michael P. Howard, MACS