Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Faith Forms Culture

“'The West has to decide what weight faith should have in the public life of its citizens. It can’t remove the problem.' These sharp words, expressed by a Middle Eastern bishop at the OASIS International Scientific Committee gathering in Amman, have come to mind recently because of the lively debate in the media about the action of Christians in civil society, the dialogue between secular and Catholic exponents (a dialogue that according to some has reached the end of the line), the supposed defeat of Christianity, and the interference of churchmen in public vicissitudes–in a word, a debate about the style with which Catholics should intervene or not in delicate issues of our common life, such as those of bioethics. It seems to me that this debate often loses sight of the heart of the question: every faith is always subject to a public cultural interpretation. On the one hand, as John Paul II wrote, 'a faith that doesn’t become culture has not been fully embraced, has not been fully thought through, has not been faithfully lived.'"-Cardinal Angelo Scola, Patriarch of Venice (Traces March 2009 emphasis added).

These words of our beloved Pope John Paul II, as quoted by Cardinal Scola, remind us that the faith IS culture, or, that Christ is His own culture. If the faith does not become culture then it is not the real thing. So how does the faith become culture? By seeking Him who is above all things:

"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth" (Col 3:1-2).

The transformation of culture takes place when the faithful sets their minds on the things above. It is only by this eschatological vision that the day to day is renewed. You have heard it said that one can be, "so heavenly minded they are no earthly good" but the Apostle says it is only by being heavenly minded that we are any earthly good. Does not our Lord say the same thing? "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:19-21).

Let us look to the things above and in so doing the things below will be remade and the culture of Life will be formed, as the Psalmist says, "When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth" (104:30).

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