Ascension: All Nations?
How do we speak about evangelization in our pluralistic and politically correct culture? More and more, we have to be extremely careful about language and assumptions. Recent discussion about cultural appropriation offers a helpful reminder about the need for caution before we open our mouths and utter words that we will come to regret, words that hurt or are, at the very least, insensitive.
I have not heard of a homilist in Canada being publicly held up as an example of inappropriate, misleading and insensitive teaching. But there are certainly teachers and preachers out there who are guilty of all this. Sometimes they are even blatantly unapologetic in their insensitivity. Perhaps the more likely fact is that most people outside the confines of the faith community really don’t concern themselves with issues such as this. In other words, they consider the Christian faith as irrelevant and don’t care.
The readings today are more helpful about how we evangelize than who we preach to. And, we must be very careful about “preaching” to people. Of course, the Gospel refers to “all nations”. A little reflection on history and the reality of a pluralistic world tells us that “all nations” must be taken with much more than a grain of salt.
Canadians have had plenty of history lessons in the past few years about the treatment of Indigenous peoples and what has been done to them in the name of Christianity. So, what are we to do? We could choose to bury our heads in the sand, pretending that the world has not changed. But that is not a valid option.
The Gospel line I take as more relevant is, “And remember, I am with you always.” At the risk of putting words in the mouth of Jesus, I think he would want believers to engage with the world and its pluralism. There is a risk of our personal beliefs being challenged and altered. But we go into dialogue with a conviction that God is with us. There is a healthy principle from Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises. “It is necessary to suppose that every good Christian is more ready to put a good interpretation on another’s statement than to condemn it as false.”
Enough about Ascension for now. As regular readers of this blog know, this writer is preparing for brain surgery (for a second tumour) in early June. I was at Sunnybrook Hospital this morning (May 24) for a pre-op assessment. I’m grateful to know that I’m heading into the surgery in excellent shape.
As the anesthesiologist pointed out after she looked at my (rather thick) file, I’m in excellent health from the neck down. My internal mechanisms are in tip top shape. I have offered myself for a head transplant. I already have a bionic ear! I know that my superb health was a major boost in earlier surgery for a tumour and for my cochlear implant. I’ll be preparing the blog for next Sunday – Pentecost. Perhaps I’ll reflect a little on how life has to change after the upcoming surgery.