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Why invite Fredrick Douglass to speak?

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

"... whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man

will receive a righteous man's reward." (Mt. 10:37-42)

On the heels of this nation's celebration of independence, I ponder why one would invite Frederick Douglass to speak about the Fourth of July. Could the sensibility be that the invitee was desirous of a righteous man's reward? Was this gesture a benevolent action to grant a Black man an opportunity to bestow the true meaning of independence? Even Douglass questioned the invitation, "Fellow citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence?"

As disciples of Jesus, ministering and receiving others into ministry, a righteous man must receive a righteous man without hidden agendas. Douglass sensed a disparity between him and the invitee. He emphatically stated, "This Fourth of July is yours, not mine." Interestingly, in 2020, we can repeat these identical words when examining the numerous injustice practices in our country. Mass incarceration, family deportation, Blacks degradation, false economic stimulation, and many more unrecorded actions make this day dark. Douglass said, "The conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this Fourth of July." And yet, they still asked him to give a discourse on the Fourth of July. Do you deem this was indeed a righteous act on the part of the invitee?

Jesus addresses the disciples in this gospel passage to prepare them to deny themselves to follow him. As a disciple, don't covet rewards for one's privilege. Instead, prayerfully, be genuine in your ministry. Receiving one another out of love and seeking the good of the other is the sign of a righteous person. Do you think that our nation's leaders are acting like true disciples? Are they righteous? Are they making laws to receive personal earnings or to help others?

What are your reasons for following Jesus? Do you want a crown? Are you looking for a just reward? The Proverb said, "The mouth of the [righteous] is a fountain of life ..." (Pro. 10:11). What words are coming out of your mouth? Are your words a fountain of life or death?

Author: Evang./Prof. Michael Howard, MACS

Facilitator, University of Dayton, VLCFF,

University of Notre Dame, McGrath Institute, STEP Online,

Lead Faculty and Course Designer "The Presence of Black Catholics in the Church Today and Tomorrow" Loyola Marymount University,

Founder of Eat the Scroll Ministry 

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