Unity in Diversity

27 January 2008 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Corinthians 1, 10-17; Matthew 4.12-23 Unity in Diversity

Note: This is homily 1 which I made in a coffee shop.

The incorporation of the Gentiles into a formerly Jewish sect brought division among its members. Each culture contributes its own tradition and customs to the young Christian community. Often, the customs clash with other ways of life. Moreover, the varied background of its members added to their different interpretation of the ways of Christian discipleship. Thus, St. Paul urges the communities to find their unity in the love of Christ.

Diversity can trace its roots in the discipleship of Jesus. Though largely Jewish, the apostles came from different backgrounds. Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen. Simon the Zealot was against the Roman occupation of Israel, while Matthew, the tax collector was pro-administration. I am almost sure that there were disputes and disagreements within their ranks, but what brought them together was precisely their sole love for Jesus.

In the largest religion of the world, Christianity’s diversity enriches as well as divides its members. The Protestants, the Catholics, and the growing evangelicals, all have different interpretations and traditions that segregate them from each other. Within the Catholic fold, the Roman Catholics will differ in various ways with their brothers and sisters in the Eastern Catholic tradition. In a largely Catholic Philippines, the practices also vary.

When a global culture moves towards an individualist or an “I” culture, there is emphasis on differences, ethnicity and cultural pride. One’s love for one’s own culture should be valued. However, when there is so much division, we have to emphasize what we all commonly share. The Church moves towards dialogue with our fellow Christians in ecumenism and with other religions in interreligious dialogue.

St. Paul proposes that we should all be one in mind and heart with our love for Christ. Thus, may I suggest the following.

First, we put primary understanding of the Creed which embodies what makes us Catholics. It is the object of our faith. As long as we understand what we profess, we are one with each other. Moral norms and worship that includes the sacraments are found in the Creed.

Second, practices however differ according to local custom. Thus, agreeing on what makes us one, we respect and enrich the faith by inculturating it, by letting the culture enhance, develop and add relevance and meaning to the practice of the faith, and vice versa.

Concretely, when in Rome, we do what the Romans do. In the Philippines, some people assert their own way of doing things. For example, in large churches were there are pews and kneelers, generally people kneel during the consecration. Some however would stand. I believe that unity in worship is a good witnessing value: thus, when majority is kneeling, we kneel. In addition, in Africa were music is largely percussive and dancing is part of their worship, we dance with the people when we are there.

Our love for Christ allows us to be flexible. We don’t attract attention to our ourselves, but we join and celebrate unity in diversity, the mark of a Christian community eversince it was established.

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