Saturday, April 13, 2013

Out of Strife, new life

In the first reading today we reach the story that event that gave birth to the ministry we call deacons. The original seven were not chosen because the apostles simply decided that they needed to create a new ministry. The responded to a crisis.

The Acts of the Apostles tell us that as the community grew ethnic Greeks were complaining that their widows were getting less care than the Hebrew widows. The verb used can either be translated grumbling or murmuring. Some things never change. Whether it is young vs. old, Hispanic vs. Anglo, or even African-American vs. new African immigrant, we humans seem to have an almost endless ability to be devise. Here it is important to distinguish difference from division.

Difference is good. God created difference. We should be able to celebrate each of our distinct cultures. Our goal should never be to homogenize the Church or the world. As Pope Francis wrote while still Archbishop of Buenos Aires, a globalization that tries to do that is essentially imperialist. That what we should seek is an "an encounter of cultures and not a fusion." He uses a geometric metaphor, a polyhedron, where as he writes, "it is totally integrated but each maintains its particularity, while at the same time, enriching the other"— Difference without division, Unity without uniformity.

The apostles settled their conflict by having the Greeks choose seven of their own who would be dedicated, not to preaching or leading the newly forming communities, but to service (Gk. diakonia), caring for the needy. Being Greek themselves, these men would understand the language, culture, and customs in a way that the Apostles, being culturally Jewish could not.

As the Church grew and spread more cultures would be added, more facets to the polyhedron, and there would continue to be tensions. We are constantly asking which parts of a culture should we embrace and which should we challenge? Which reflect the values of the gospel and which do not?