Grace to you!
Living in a different culture other than where one was born and raised comes with a price. One is how to assimilate and to what extent. The other is how not to loose ones own identity.
Assimilation is a beautiful thing. But losing what makes a person unique is terrible. Sociological studies promote cultural assimilation. They equally discourage cultural extinction.
We read from numerous Church documents how a people’s culture is their identity and the sense of who they are. Saint Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI made this point very central in their numerous discussions on culture and dialogue. It was one of the assumptions in Pope Francis’ encyclical letter on evangelization, “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel).
Cultural assimilation is good when it allows for a healthy dialogue between what makes us different and what unites us. Such does not destroy identity. Rather, it enriches it.
On many occasions, I’ve been invited to give public speeches in different locations here in the USA. It’s a privilege that God has opened such rare opportunities for me. I realize that one of the reasons I’m invited is people want to hear my unique story.
In dialogue with my new culture, I have come to appreciate how ones culture could be enriched and not be destroyed. My story adds to the richness of the American story too. I’m passionate about my identity. I treasure those of others too. I find in the dialogue of the two a beauty of mutual inspiration.
Did you know that about 150 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, the Jews had to deal with the struggle for their identity as a people and their customs and religion? Following the death of King Alexander, son of Philip, popularly known in history as Alexander the Great, the Macedonian king of Ancient Greece (356-323 BC), the Greek kingdom was not to be the same place of diversity. King Alexander’s officers began to rule and this led to a different segmented leadership.
One of the worst kings was known as Antiochus Epiphanies, who was said to have reigned over the Greek territory from around 175 BC to 164 BC (see Catholic Bible Association, (1994) commentary of 1 Mac 1:10). He was brutal.
His vision was to establish a one-world government, with one religion, one culture, and one custom. The practical implication was that all the races and cultures under his reign were forced to adopt his distinctive stipulation of the Greek culture.
The Jews, in particular, were to be forced to abandon their religion and belief in the one God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their belief in the Mosaic Law and the ethical codes associated with these. Guess what? This was an assault on the people’s religion and their self-identity.
Such would lead to many conflicts. Sure it did. The rest of the stories in the First and Second Book of Maccabees tell different aspects of the struggle for self and cultural identity and religious freedom for the Jews under the terrible reign of a king who didn’t respect religious freedom and cultural diversity.
As we continue to reflect on this powerful story (throughout this week), how does it relate to us in various ways in our daily life?
I learn that if one can’t stand for what one believes, there is the danger of one not believing in anything at all. One of the worst dehumanization of the human person is to not stand for something.
Cultural assimilation is good, but not on the altar of the destruction of one’s identity. Be proud of who you are, where you come from and your unique identity. Be proud of your faith, because it is part of your identity.
Praying for the courage to be and express who you are. Amen
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Monday Week 33 A: 1 Mc 1:10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-63; Lk 18:35-43]
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.