Attorneys, judges and elected officials prayed together in Little Rock for Law Week in Arkansas.
McDonald Hall at Little Rock’s Cathedral of St. Andrew was the setting for the 2023 Interfaith Prayer Breakfast, May 4, hosted by the St. Thomas More Society of Arkansas and Pulaski County Bar Association. The annual breakfast coincided with Law Week in Arkansas, under the banner “Surround with Justice, Embrace with Grace.” The theme was reinforced by the slate of speakers, which included clergy from five different faith traditions.
“Gathering together under this beautiful theme coming from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a great reminder of a sermon … where he used the philosopher Hegel and his system of dialectical logic,” said Father Rubén Quinteros, pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in North Little Rock (Marche) and St. Mary Church in North Little Rock. “Dr. King got the inspiration from this philosopher as an analogy of the synthesis which reconciles with two outstretched arms, ‘One is strong enough to surround us with justice, and one is gentle enough to embrace us with grace.’
“Pope Francis mentioned last year in a speech to lawyers that ‘Justice must always accompany the search for peace, which presupposes truth and freedom.’ This human and spiritual search, which is innate or distinctive to every human being, must find its fulfillment in truth and freedom. This is the field where justice is imparted and where grace is found.”
Father Quinteros was joined on the dais by Rabbi Mark Biller of the Congregation Agudath Achim in Little Rock and Rev. Joseph Bittle of Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Little Rock, who noted the courage it often takes to pursue peace even as one seeks justice.
“One of the things I often emphasize with newcomers to our church … is that we start with and often return to the petition for peace, and that we are first of all seeking the gift of the ‘peace from above’, not that which we, on our own steam, can create from below,” he said. “That peace we are petitioning for isn’t simply the absence of conflict. Peace, biblically speaking, is much broader than that … which is to say, things ordered in creation as the Creator ordered them to be, things as God designed them.
“As human beings, lawyers or not, we must do the legwork for justice, bringing grace, but ultimately for justice and grace to blend together in truth, in the peace that is Shalom, and we must seek that from above all the while treading the difficult and often personally perilous way of being ‘The King’s good servant, but God’s first,’ This may cause us to find ourselves in the King’s disfavor, but if so, so be it.”
Also delivering remarks were Rev. Brittany Richardson-Watson of First United Methodist Church in Little Rock and Bishop Phoebe Roaf of the Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee in Memphis, who called for a new era of kindness and understanding toward those who are disadvantaged or recovering from poor choices.
“What a society prioritizes is demonstrated not in the status of those of us who are blessed with access to resources, but in how the most vulnerable members of society are treated. When we’re at our lowest, how do others respond to us? Are we forever seen as our worst mistake?” she said. “I wonder if Americans have lost our empathy for the suffering of others. All of us have blind spots and a little humility can go a long way. Discussing options with a diverse group raises issues that we may miss if we are deliberating on our own. That may sound simple, but it’s difficult in these highly polarized times.
“Brothers and sisters, we’re all Americans! We’re on the same team, and we’re going to sink together or swim together. Having an open heart and mind, a willingness to consider different perspectives and a spirit of humility are prerequisites of the important work you are engaged in. We find ourselves in an era where now more than ever we need courageous men and women to step forward and embody our Judeo-Christian ethics.”
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