PEOPLE OF GOD PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL
The Primacy of Grace on the Pilgrim Journey of the People of God
If I could choose a single sentence to sum up this next section, (para. 110-126), it would be the powerful sentence in para. 112, the “principle of the primacy of grace must be the beacon which constantly illuminates our reflections on evangelization.” Grace is the umbrella that covers the entire Christian mystery. Grace, for me, is short hand for the very animating life of the Holy Trinity that is shared with the human race. The Christian life is our cooperation with this divine life within us that welcomes us into the family of God. Grace is not a private privilege but received within a family of God on a journey, a family that is truly catholic (universal) in its character and as richly diverse as the nations and cultures it welcomes within its loving embrace. Good missionaries (and he stresses here again, that is all of us!) are attentive to the meeting of the Gospel with various cultures, receiving all that is good, true and beautiful in that culture as new adornments on the Bride of Christ, and observing how the Gospel engaging a culture can give birth to new and life-giving devotions and piety.
The Church is more a pilgrim people that an established institution, a family on the move that continually welcomes every human person, without exception, to join our joyful journey to the house of the Father.
As each person joins the throng, they bring to the Church the richness of their culture and language, adorning the Bride of Christ with these gifts. The Church, in turn, enriches that new culture and language with the power of the Good News. In this mutual act of giving and receiving the Church becomes truly incarnational and catholic, that is, universal.
This growing organic reality should never produce a kind of stale uniformity in the family of faith, but instead a richness of diversity that doesn't hallow one particular cultural expression over another, no matter how ancient that culture may be. In other words, the Church shouldn’t operate like the colonialism of the last 500 years that imposed a particular culture or modes of expression onto new peoples. The Church instead brings the Good News and then cooperates with grace to see how the Gospel welcomes, ennobles and even receives from that culture. To do otherwise, would shackle the faith and diminish its universal offer to all nations and peoples.
Mary, the Star of the New Evangelization, has actually modeled this in different cultures around the world, but maybe no place so dramatically and clearly as in the New World when she appeared to Saint Juan Diego as Our Lady of Guadalupe (an event we just celebrated). Her facial features and skin tone reflected her audience’s ethnicity, and her garments were adorned with the symbols of that people. Like the pilgrim Church (of which Mary is the archtype), our Lady embraced all the indigenous people and the dozens of cultures that would be drawn to the Americas in the coming centuries. On December 11th, Pope Francis challenged us to follow Mary’s example “I ask all the people of the Americas to open wide their arms, like the Virgin, with love and tenderness.”
Do I welcome the diverse cultures that the Lord has brought to my parish, attentive to the specific gifts that are given to enrich and nourish my community or have I taken sides dividing my community between “us and them”?
How can I employ what is good, true and beautiful about the culture in which I live to create a conversation or encounter with the message of the Gospel?
Consider participating in a unique cultural expression within the Christian community in your area this Advent season. For example, a Las Posadas celebration.
Catholic speaker and presenter, Thomas Smith, was a Protestant minister who was received into the Catholic Church in 1996. Bringing a wealth of experience and insight on the Word of God to audiences across the U.S., Thomas is a repeat guest on EWTN and Catholic radio as well as a sought after parish mission and conference speaker. To follow Thomas' insightful blog or contact him visit: Gen215.org