Monday, June 23, 2008

"Ain't Nothing Like a Comeback"

Praying that "somebody in the press gets saved today" and saying it was "good for me to lose my comfortability," Fr Michael Pfleger came back swingin' (fullaudio) to his longtime pulpit at Chicago's St Sabina's church after a fortnight on the bench earlier this month:
"I return to the pulpit committed to the gospel of justice. I will not let my faults or imperfections cause me to neither run and hide, nor allow them to cause me to 'play it safe' or become silent," he said....

At St. Sabina on Sunday, ushers distributed light-blue fliers with a silhouette of boxing great Muhammad Ali in fighting stance that read: "Ain't nothing like a comeback." When Pfleger entered the church, the congregation rose to its feet and cheered.

He started the mass by reading a statement to his congregation that posed the question, "Where do we go from here?"

Apparently in reference to his recent missteps, Pfleger said the road traveled by Christians is neither straight nor smooth but filled with bumps and potholes, good choices and bad choices.

And although his charged views on race were partly to blame for his recent suspension, Pfleger said he would continue to speak out against racism, which he called "the greatest sin."

"I want to see our country overcome this sin," he said. "Because of that, I have chosen to be an activist, as was Dr. [ Martin Luther] King, and like one of my mentors, Monsignor Jack Egan, and encourage those whom I pastor to become activists."

Pfleger, who leads one of the city's largest African-American churches, has often said it was King who inspired him to become a priest. Egan was a well-known Chicago priest and Catholic activist who was part of the civil rights movement.

As long as he remained pastor, Pfleger said, he would continue to protest poverty and lack of health care and to fight gun violence that is "killing children every week."

"The church cannot coexist with evil," Pfleger continued. "Rather, we must be Christ's light in darkness and be committed to making a difference."

Later during his sermon, Pfleger spoke about his two-week suspension as a test of faith. Drawing parallels between Ali's boxing career and his own public humiliation, Pfleger preached about the embarrassment of being knocked down and the importance of getting back up again.

"You will fall. I will fall. And even though we fall, we can get back up again," he said. "When you hear the voice of God say, 'Get up' . . . when you make that decision to get back up, you become dangerous to the enemy."

Pfleger also mentioned his father, who is gravely ill, and said recent time spent with him taught him lessons on life.

"Stumbles will shake you. Stumbles will also purify you. They will cause you to ask yourself what really matters," he said.
PHOTO: Chuck Berman/Chicago Tribune File