We Cannot Just Be Culturally Catholic

In America, the Catholic Church is a church of many races and cultures. In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles alone, Holy Mass is celebrated in nearly 40 different languages. There are cultures that in America we still associate with Catholicism, while there are other cultures that we associate as hostile to the Catholic faith.

Recently on Father Simon Says™, Father Simon discussed the ‘sign of Jonah’ that Jesus references in the Gospel of Matthew. In reflecting on the meaning of this sign, he showed the parallel between Jonah and our own modern times. That, on the one hand, it’s not enough to merely be culturally Catholic; while on the other hand, we cannot fail to preach the Gospel to people because of how we perceive their culture or ethnicity. Father Simon said:

“Jonah did not flee from the Lord’s command because he was afraid, but because he did not want the Assyrians to repent. That’s what Jesus means by the ‘sign of Jonah.’ It’s not just a discussion of the Resurrection – that Jonah was in the belly of the earth for three days – but just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be a sign to this generation.

The Ninevites, in the story of Jonah, were anxious to come to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And so often we deny the faith to people because of our prejudices or ethnicities.

To be Catholic because I’m Italian, or to be Catholic because I’m Polish, or Irish, or German, or Mexican – it’s not enough. One has to be Catholic because it’s true. And I think that’s a very important thing.

Jonah didn’t want to Assyrians to have access to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and so he fled from the Lord’s command. And there’s a modern parallel, in that there are countries that are inimical to us as Americans, and they seem to be becoming Christian. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Iran is amazing. In China it’s amazing.

Sometimes we look down on people of other ethnicities. But in the Church we find that these are our brothers and sisters. This is an amazing thing about Catholicism – it really does reflect the whole world. So I think it’s important to understand that.

So this sign of Jonah is an outpouring of the Gospel to the world. In a funny kind of way, Relevant Radio® is the sign of Jonah, because it is going out all over the world, by means of the App. I’ve heard from people in India, in Europe, in Africa, in Asia. In a certain sense, Relevant Radio is a sign of Jonah. It’s about the internationality of the Faith.

We have our ethnicities, and we’re proud of them, and we offer them as gifts to each other. But we are part of something universal. And we respect the humanity of all people.

The sign of Jonah is not just the Resurrection, but the fact that the Resurrection so empowered people like Paul, and Peter, and Thomas that they went through the whole world without fear. The Resurrection of Jesus taught them that every human being was loved by God.  We can be proud of our ethnicity and patriotic to our nation, but we need to reverence the image of God in every human being, and be ready to share the Gospel with them.”

Listen to the full reflection below:

Father Simon Says airs weekdays at 2:00 p.m. Eastern/11:00 a.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at relevantradio.com and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.