More than 2,000 years ago there was a family that was searching for a place to give birth to the Son of Man. In their journey for finding a place to be hospice they came across many obstacles. The major obstacle was that of communion, of finding a place of empathy, of trust and of someone who can “make room” for them.
Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical Novo Millenio Innuente, has noted that the great challenge facing us in this millennium is to “make the Church the home and school of Communion.” (Novo Millenio Inuente, no.43)
The Catholic Church in the U.S. is very much meeting this challenge every day in finding ways to welcome, embrace and encourage newcomers to be an integral part of this home and school of communion in our local parish communities. In doing such, it is reminded to go about this missionary action by engaging, accompanying and sending forth its leadership to the periphery, where many find themselves today from the church. Those who are often found at the periphery in our parish communities are those who are culturally different from the dominant cultural group (European, African, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific, etc). This ever-challenging task of evangelization of preaching the Gospel, embracing cultural diversity and enabling structures of participation is often overturned by an emphasis on Americanization, which focuses on preaching U.S. values and ethos, imposing uniformity over diversity, emphasizing on assimilation and creating limiting structures of participation.
If we are to look toward a home of communion, through the lens of evangelization within the context of cultural diversity, we are challenged to attend to, especially during this time of Advent and Christmas, to “make room” in our inn for the coming of our Lord. This means attending to the complexity of our own inner occupied spaces that do not permit us to “make room” for others in our lives, in our parishes, etc. It invites us to look closely and attend to the fragmentation, the segmentation of our inner structural resources that does not “make room” for reaching out and building bridges with one another as leaven for the reign of God in our lives and in our parish communities. Lastly, we are to face how our actions (as individuals and as a faith community) may display to some extent a dis-connect with the meaning and the story of salvation through Christ Jesus by the way we treat one another publicly and privately.
Cultural diversity is with no doubt a challenge to any social grouping. Attending to the three challenges aforementioned can foster a home and a school of communion. Such a home and school will “make room” to share our joys and sufferings, to sense our desires and attend to each other’s needs, and to offer a deep and genuine friendship, reflecting God’s presence in our lives.
When we find ourselves searching for ways to grapple with the challenge of “making room” for cultural diversity in our lives and in our parish communities, let us not look far, but rather deep in our own being and in the story of Emmanuel (God with us), so that the fruits of our inner being becomes the embrace and gift from God that we extend to all those whom God has gifted us with. We are called to evangelize not Americanize; we are called to love one another as Christ has loved us. May this season of advent prepare the way to “make room” in our inn for the birthing of the good news of Christ our Savior in all its joyous expressions. AMEN!
Rudy Vargas IV is executive director Northeast Hispanic Catholic Center.