Homily for Wednesday of the 5th Week of Easter Year A
Theme: THEOLOGICAL DIALOGUE VS INCULTURATION
By: Fr. Ben Agbo
Homily for Wednesday May 13 2020
* Act 15: 1 – 6, Jn 15: 1 – 8.
We are so much lacking in the area of theological dialogue today and for me, that’s why the Christian message seems not to be sinking well. Even among priests and theologians, understanding on a number of issues vary a lot. A particular priest may want the Prayer of the faithful in his Parish done this way while the other wants it the other way. There are a number of accidental matters where relativity may be accepted in the Church while there are a number of essential matters where objectivity must over rule. In today’s first reading, we encounter the first major problem of Inculturation in the Early Church. Inculturation is the challenge of insertion of Christianity within a given cultural mileau. Making Christianity take flesh within a culture entails retaining the essential tenets of Christianity and dropping the accidents. For example, if Africans (in a temperate weather) worship God by clapping and dancing while Europeans (in a cold weather) have the predilection for singing dull and slow chants, we may not need to insist that Africans who embrace Christianity must sing like Europeans. In today’s first reading, we have one of such accidents trying to rock the boat of Christian unity. The Pharisee party were insisting that unless the new converts from other climes and cultures were circumcized according to the custom of Moses they cannot be saved. Only a theological dialogue, the kind that was held in Jerusalem as recorded in today’s first reading, saved the situation.
The gospel speaks about the essentials of Christianity – being configured to the teachings of Christ and being sacramentally in communion with him. Christ says: ‘ Cut off from me you can do nothing’. We must imbibe the objective teachings of Christ, eg his teachings on love and forgiveness. Issues about moral and dogmatic theology are not areas where individual opinions rule in the Church. We may disagree on mode of dressing in the Church for instance, but we may not disagree on whether fornication and adultery is a sin or not. We may disagree on the role of masquerades in inculturation of a people but we may not disagree on whether idolatry or violence is permissible or not by the Church. We need more and more theological dialogue every Sunday between priests and their Parishioners and also among priests themselves, through regular synods or even social media channels like watsap/ Facebook/ telegram chats ( provided it does not degenerate into unnecessary diatribes).
The gospel says that a lot of Divine pruning takes place when we dialogue on God’s Word : ‘You are made clean by the words I have spoken to you…If a man does not abide in me he is cast forth as a branch and withers. But if you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will and it shall be done for you’. Like the disciples on their journey to Emmaus were cognitively fired up by their theological conversations with Christ, we need more and more avenues for discussing the Word of God. We need more theological dialogue in order to bear more fruits in Christianity.
May God bless you today!