Daily Reflection
September 3rd, 2008

Ray Bucko, S.J.

Department of Sociology and Anthropology
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Years ago I was with a Lakota friend and I invited him to have dinner – I asked him would he would like to have and he said “talo” – meat. Well, I figured steak and I figured I better look in my wallet and see if I could cover it. I opened my billfold and after the moths all flew out I saw that I had enough – but being a westerner I looked carefully in there so that my friend could not see -- after all, how much money we have is often an intimate secret in some cultures. My friend shook his head and said “wicasha sni” – not being a human! He didn’t mean I was inhuman but my behavior was. I was hiding- not willing to show him how much I had! This was decidedly not good Lakota manners.

Today Paul tries to heal the factionalism in the community of Corinth over allegiances – members of the community forming groups according to who brought them into the Church. The people of Corinth and I were acting on our normal cultural cues – align according to leaders and keep your cash secret!

In the Gospel today, the people again do the same thing- act on their cultural cues. Jesus is healing people and of course the people of the town do not want Jesus to leave. They want to honor the healer and keep him available for others in THEIR village.

But Jesus is called for the many and not exclusively for this one group and he tells them he must move on. He does not simply join one synagogue, the custom of the day, but is called to visit them all – to spread the Gospel to all.

The Church reminds us that it embraces all cultures – indeed there is much in culture that is holy and good and expressive of God. On the other hand we are also reminded that our faith stands in judgment and challenge over all cultures also – that like ourselves, culture, which is a human product, can also be sinful.

My aunt has a favorite story about me. She claims that when I was a little boy I stayed overnight at her house. In the morning she asked if I wanted eggs or cereal for breakfast. I looked at her and asked if I could have a boloney sandwich instead! She said sure and gave it to me.

But sometimes we go against cultural norms and refuse to join factions that will endanger communities, or we move on to another town or task, or we even have a boloney sandwich for breakfast! Our faith asks us to embrace our cultures but also to go beyond them, particularly when those norms prevent us from being true human beings – to heal divisions, to heal the brokenness in ourselves and in the world, to go out to the other towns, to leave our comfort zone, as Jesus does today and, as we saw on Sunday, to even go to foreign towns and heal foreign people. To heed the spirit!

By the way, I still enjoy a good boloney sandwich now and again for breakfast. It helps remind me of my childhood and growing up and it helps me remember to go beyond the expected. As we would say in my home town, that ain’t no boloney.

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