On November 17, 2022, Fr. Benjamin Alforque, MSC, related his personal encounter of Christ in his Truth Talk presentation on Faith and Culture. Immediately, one may ask, how do these two words work together? Fr. Ben teaches us that Faith and Culture help to balance the influence of our response as Christians and human beings. Faith is a personal commitment and firm conviction in the knowledge that Christ saves His people. Modern culture seeks a new humanity formed on the values of unanimity and integrity to care for creation. Surprisingly, this is a tradition of the indigenous peoples to embody the love of God and to intentionally encounter others as human beings. So why is it so challenging to encourage and practice such connectedness amongst our neighbors?
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to join a retreat that answered this question for me and confirms Fr. Ben’s convictions. What I discovered is that humanity is steeped in her traumas which have been passed down through the centuries of stereotyping and false perceptions of how one should treat their neighbor. For example, conflict created by racism, violence, idolatry and setting aside of people as unworthy. Every country has experienced a form of hurt and pain. Healing these wounds require an effort to work together to end division and conflict. By listening to each other, we can begin to understand our differences and empathize with our neighbor. As Fr. Ben suggests, this requires faith and culture to unite, to seek forgiveness and to cleanse our customs of cruelty and to be open to the presence of the spirit of unity in our lives because “creation was there before humanity and humanity needs creation.”
We have much to learn from each other’s faith and much to learn from each other’s culture. How will you seek forgiveness from your biases towards others? How will you share the beauty of your faith and culture with others? We must be willing to embrace our neighbor with the same love Jesus offers to us in His own sacrifice on the cross. Let us pray for a transformation of our hearts to include and to be accepting of the gifts of every person. In other words, follow the greatest commandments as mentioned in Mark 12:30-31, “Love God and love your neighbor as yourselves.” In this way, we reveal God’s heart to the world.