Thursday, December 12, 2013

“The presence of brothers and sisters from different cultures should be celebrated as a gift to the Church.”

Our common dignity as human beings calls us to respect the alien among us, regardless of their status or social position. A preferential love for the poor and disenfranchised is a sure sign of one's Christian identity. – Most Rev. Robert N. Lynch, (Bishop of St. Petersburg, Fla),

Gospel Text: (Lk 1:26-38)
The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

In December of 1531, God sent his special messenger, the Virgin Mary, to the native peoples of what is now Mexico and to the Spanish colonizers who found it so easy to exploit them. She appeared in a familiar form, as a pregnant native woman dressed in everyday native garb. And because of her appearance and the miracles that followed, the peoples of yet another nation and another culture bound themselves to the Lord.

But there’s more to the story of Guadalupe than dramatic conversions. Missionaries from Western Europe have sometimes been tempted to impose their culture on peoples with very different ways. Of course, accepting the gospel means changing your life. You can’t become a Christian and continue to practice polygamy or engage in drunken brawls. But you don’t have to sing Gregorian chant or celebrate Mass in a grand cathedral. Jesus came to liberate people from sin, but he also came to set them free so that they could express their worship in their own way, in line with their own culture.

Have you ever gone to Mass with people from a different background than your own? This can be a powerful experience of how our Church is both local and universal. You may not understand the language. You may find the hymns unfamiliar. But you will still be able to follow along with everyone there—with your brothers and sisters.

Try to grab opportunities like this whenever they present themselves. It may be a televised liturgy. It may be as you are traveling. Perhaps there is a church in your city where Mass is celebrated in a different language or in Latin or according to the Byzantine or Coptic rite. Or perhaps you can expand your horizons through music or art. For example, you can research the many different ways Our Lady has been portrayed in paintings and sculptures, from Nairobi to Nagasaki, from Czestochowa to Chechnya.

God is so much bigger than we think. And he has called us into a family that is spread throughout the world.

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