Embracing Change & Culture

This is my sixth time traveling through Peru, but only my first time in Cusco. I found the whole area fascinating and mysterious. It’s more than just the Andes that’s interesting.

The landscape is just beautiful. Who doesn’t love the mountains and seeing the sun rise and set over the mountains or the moon sitting just about the mountains.

There are homes and businesses in many of the valleys which adds to the landscape. But what I found most fascinating were the people and culture. It’s very rich in culture. In certain areas things may appear very modern, cell phones, Wifi access, and modern vehicles etc. However in many places it’s still very primitive like with the indigenous people – the Inca’s. The way in which they live, dress, eat and their customs, and rituals.

It’s amazing to me that the culture has standed the test of time. That’s a sign of strength of the people in passing everything on to the next generation because culture can fade away quickly as things change and modernism moves in.

I started to wonder if the culture is slowly fading away as pressure comes from the outside. Although, here it appears to be a mixture that still works very well together due to a reverence and respect of the different cultures.

Yesterday, I reflected on the culture and the cultures in which we belong back home. Culture of your family, place of work, place of worship or ministry etc.

Sometimes a change in culture is necessary. For example moving a parish from maintenance to mission. Are we just running folks through what I call the sacramental mill or helping them to encounter the person of Jesus and grow in relationship with Him. I’m not at all saying the sacraments are not important to life of holiness. They are vitally important and necessary, but without the person of Jesus one will see little fruit in their life and the sacraments lack meaning. So in this case a change and shift in culture is necessary.

What if however, you marry into a new family. The culture of the family has certain traditions, rituals, foods etc that maybe you don’t particularly care about for what ever reason. The same thing could happen at your place of work, where you worship, your neighborhood, or small community you belong to. All these areas of our lives contain a context that includes culture.

Do we try to learn and grow as a person and integrate ourselves into the new culture. Or do we meet it with resistance and try to make things our way and change the culture which brings us comfort. As humans we find comfort and safety in what we know, but the unknown scares us. Or maybe we come in large and in charged as we want it our way, smallness is just too scary. You might think I know too much too be in the back seat, I need to be driving.

Although, I’m going to a place I know, there’s a big difference in staying eight days with a group of people I know oppose to staying two months alone working with the staff that mostly speaks Spanish and limited English.

Therefore two things I’ve been praying for regularly.

1. For the Peruvian people I will be working with to have of grace of patience with me as I adjust, learn and do my best to understand.

2. For me the grace of learning agility in picking up any new knowledge and the language as fast as I can.

It’s not my plan or agenda to tell them how I think things should be done. Or we do it this way in the states. I have no plans for any workout reviews on operational efficiencies. I’ve done that stuff in my prior life, that’s not why God called me here.

It is my plan to learn and be a student of them and Fr. Joe. They know things about the culture, the business in which they coordinate with etc. that I do not. They understand how to operate a mission. It’s important I learn and respect all aspects of the culture here. One does not have to abandon their culture to become a Christian and have a relationship with Christ. The Gospel can speak to and within every culture. That’s pretty amazing – spend time thinking about it!

Besides the basis of all Catholic Social teaching is that all human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. I think the staff probably have a better understanding of that than I do even though I know the principal. They put into practice and live it each and every day serving the poor here in Piura.

I’m sure we will all be transformed into different people in the end. There’s a Greek word for radical transformation or conversation of heart – Metonia. It forces one to dig deep, look interiorly, and repent.

There will be joy and I’m sure at times tears of frustration, it’s all part of the process in Metonia. Both the waters of baptism and the tears of frustration will keep us all wet clay so that we are molded more into the image of Christ. The Lord can easily form wet clay, If I’m open and ask for the grace I know with confidence it will be granted by God the Father.

How about you…. Where in your life do you need to be the student. Are you open to change or do you meet it with stubbornness and resistance? Where in your life is Metonia needed. How about culture, do you seek understanding or something else – fill in the blank.

Whatever it is, ask the Lord for the grace.

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