According to the Acts of the Apostles, the first cultural conflict in the Church occurred when Greeks in the early Christian community at Jerusalem complained that their widows received unequal treatment in the distribution of food as compared to their Hebrew counterparts (Acts 6:1-6). Wisely, the twelve Hebrew apostles resolved this crisis by calling not their fellow Hebrews, but seven Greeks to leadership as deacons charged with overseeing the daily allocations of food. In the wake of this prudent decision, “the word of God continued to spread, and the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly” (Acts 6:7).
The apostles’ example of respecting the needs of people with a different language and culture and sharing leadership with them remains an important model for us today.
I experienced the beauty of unity in diversity several years ago when I was a parishioner at San Antonio’s San Fernando Cathedral. One of the people I met there was then the mayor of the city. Though he was Baptist, he came to the weekday noon Mass at the cathedral on a regular basis. What he admired most about San Fernando was the way the predominantly ethnic Mexican parish leaders welcomed anyone and everyone who came through the doors. He noted that San Fernando was the only place in the city where he could just as easily sit next to the head of the chamber of commerce, a homeless person, a judge, a banker, a waitress, a laborer, or anyone else, and all would be received with the same respect and dignity.
I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder to be a Catholic than when I heard the mayor testify: “I love San Fernando Cathedral because it is the one place in this city where we all meet on an equal basis as San Antonians. And I’ve got to tell you, though I’m a Baptist, sometimes when I get back to my office after noon Mass and lunch, I get down on my knees and ask my Lord to guide me so that I can make this city a little bit more like San Fernando Cathedral.” The mayor’s testimony about San Fernando as a holy place where people of all backgrounds feel at home reminds us what all our Catholic parishes are meant to be. May God help us to form faith communities that give such witness to our Lord Jesus Christ.
2014 © Timothy Matovina. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Image by Pixabay. Church by Brent Smith