Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: The Holy Spirit drives us to bring all cultures into an appreciation and acceptance of the faith.

Thursday of 10th week in course 2015

Joy of the Gospel

Just imagine if from your earliest days you were called by the name “son/daughter of encouragement”? Wouldn’t you just naturally become a very positive person? That was the destiny of our apostle, today. Bar-Nabas, which is the way you refer to the son of the man Nabas, also means “son of encouragement.” Here we see Barnabas going to Saul’s home town to look for Saul, the man whom we know as St. Paul. Saul had been converted to become a follower of The Way, that is, the Catholic faith, on the road to Damascus. From his role as a killer of Christians, he became an apostle for Christ. But the early Christians were suspicious of him: was he a double-agent for the Jewish authorities? Was his conversion sincere? The Antioch community of Jews and Christians was growing very quickly, and they needed someone well-versed in the OT to help teach these new Christians. Saul was a dedicated scholar of both Jewish and Christian teachings. So, after encouraging the Antioch community, Barnabas went to Tarsus to encourage Saul to return and help with the Antioch church. Soon enough, though, the Holy Spirit, through a prophetic voice, set aside Saul and Barnabas to go and spread the gospel through their first missionary journey.

Jew, Greek, pagan–all were called to follow Christ. The Way of Christ, the Way of Loving Service, has always been open to all, regardless of their background. James Joyce defined the Catholic Church as “here comes everybody.” That’s an apt description. I rejoice to see people of every background coming to Mass here each week. That’s what Christ told us to do–go and teach and baptize all nations.

The Holy Father picks up on this theme of cultural diversity: ‘In these first two Christian millennia, countless peoples have received the grace of faith, brought it to flower in their daily lives and handed it on in the language of their own culture. Whenever a community receives the message of salvation, the Holy Spirit enriches its culture with the transforming power of the Gospel. The history of the Church shows that Christianity does not have simply one cultural expression, but rather, “remaining completely true to itself, with unswerving fidelity to the proclamation of the Gospel and the tradition of the Church, it will also reflect the different faces of the cultures and peoples in which it is received and takes root”.[88] In the diversity of peoples who experience the gift of God, each in accordance with its own culture, the Church expresses her genuine catholicity and shows forth the “beauty of her varied face”.[89] In the Christian customs of an evangelized people, the Holy Spirit adorns the Church, showing her new aspects of revelation and giving her a new face. Through inculturation, the Church “introduces peoples, together with their cultures, into her own community”,[90] for “every culture offers positive values and forms which can enrich the way the Gospel is preached, understood and lived”.[91] In this way, the Church takes up the values of different cultures and becomes sponsa ornata monilibus suis, “the bride bedecked with her jewels” (cf. Is 61:10)”.[92]

'When properly understood, cultural diversity is not a threat to Church unity. The Holy Spirit, sent by the Father and the Son, transforms our hearts and enables us to enter into the perfect communion of the blessed Trinity, where all things find their unity. He builds up the communion and harmony of the people of God. The same Spirit is that harmony, just as he is the bond of love between the Father and the Son.[93] It is he who brings forth a rich variety of gifts, while at the same time creating a unity which is never uniformity but a multifaceted and inviting harmony. Evangelization joyfully acknowledges these varied treasures which the Holy Spirit pours out upon the Church. We would not do justice to the logic of the incarnation if we thought of Christianity as monocultural and monotonous. While it is true that some cultures have been closely associated with the preaching of the Gospel and the development of Christian thought, the revealed message is not identified with any of them; its content is transcultural. Hence in the evangelization of new cultures, or cultures which have not received the Christian message, it is not essential to impose a specific cultural form, no matter how beautiful or ancient it may be, together with the Gospel. The message that we proclaim always has a certain cultural dress, but we in the Church can sometimes fall into a needless hallowing of our own culture, and thus show more fanaticism than true evangelizing zeal.'

St. Augustine put it well: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

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