Gospel & Inculturation


Living the Gospel to the letter illumines the diversity of cultures and restores their dignity in the truth. Klaus Hemmerle (1992-1994) was convinced of this. He spoke of it in a speech he gave when he was the bishop of Aachen Germany in 1993. Below are excerpts from that talk.

20160522-1In the modern age we see a culture forming that no longer integrates the Gospel. It is a culture of development, scientific and technical progress completely detached from Christian foundations. It is a culture that has created one single and global space for all of humanity to live in.

The African culture is not a technological culture,nor the Asian culture, even though Africans and Asians tend toward the same development. But they have different ideas and values. If these different cultures and traditions do not participate in the technological development they cannot survive, they go lost. What can create a non-technical global unity is the Gospel, the co-existence of many cultures in a single world. The Gospel can allow different cultures to enter into a dialogue with one another that makes them develop and change not in a merely exterior manner, but through a dialogue in the one and only truth and in the singular system of Christian values. In this way we salvage both uniqueness and plurality. This is the challenge of today. If we do not do it as Christians we lose an opportunity, we do not face the historic challenge that is being given to us in this moment. Inculturation means taking seriously those values and those human traditions that are everywhere, not to make a museum out of them, not for the sake of a relativism within which each of them can live on, but to create a dialogue in the truth, a truth that can never be imposed but freely offered.

The new evangelization is “new” inasmuch as the Christian culture no longer exists. In that same sense it should be an evangelization of those cultures that have not yet experienced a serious encounter with Christianity. And with what force should this take place if not with that “making yourself one” of love which is the same love with which Christ assumed our flesh, our human nature and became one of us [see 1 Cor. 9:22].  The love that led Jesus to become incarnate should urge us to “make ourselves one” with all cultures, without losing the uniqueness of the Gospel.

Since the spirituality of the Focolare is all about life and living, it manages to unite beyond the borders and limitations of individual cultures, and it also forms a bond between cultures. It is like a liquid that precisely because it is life, it is assimilated by all types of cultures. If we live the Gospel in its pure state and with self-emptying love, if we lose our cultural roots in order to “make ourselves one” not only with the individual neighbour we have in front of us but also with his culture, then our neighbours can be active and give to us what they possess, and they can offer us their treasures transformed and purified by living the Gospel: values that at the same time illumine and make the Gospel understood.

In this white light of the Gospel, I can see the other’s light and give him my light and my culture. We do walk a one-way path: Living in the same world we receive the culture and the Gospel from others and give them our own. The others are involved in the same dynamic of love that is the Good News of the Gospel, that of Jesus which He brought to the earth so that we might live the culture of Heaven already now in this world.

(Compiled by German theologian, Wilfried Hagemann, from the biography of Klaus Hemmerle).

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