One of the phenomena slowly disappearing (or maybe already gone) from our Western Culture is cultural Catholicity or cultural Christianity. Cultural Christians would agree with Christian values, sometimes even with some obligations, can be practising, yet they do not believe in God. Everything they do has just a traditional character. They go to church because they were taught to do so; they celebrate Christmas and Easter in a certain way because they were taught to do so; sometimes, they even attend Mass regularly because they were taught to do so. In general, those people try to live externally like Christians or at least apply some Christian traditions to their lives without any religious meaning of such actions.
I would say that cultural religiosity is not only a case of the Western World. Pharisees in today’s gospel are, in a way, cultural Jews. No one can say they did not believe in God, quite the opposite. However, their faith was based on behavioural obligations. It is hard to comprehend the possibility of having faith without any expression of it in daily life. What Jesus accuses the Pharisees of is the misunderstanding of the reason of they acting how they do. They detached their private lives from God’s presence, remaining at the level of social-religious rituals. The external practices took first place in their lives.
It is easy to speak about cultural Christians as “they”. I want to invite us to think about our faith and the religious observances we take. What is the reason I go to Church, say the rosary every day, fast every Friday? Do I live in the spirit of my practices? They are not to be separated from spiritual life, so it is crucial to be honest with ourselves in how we perceive them. Doing something because other people do it or because I was taught to do so is not evil! However, those traditions cannot be separated from the relationship between God and me. We can tend to see many Church’s precepts as burdens, even to the point of being selective in them. Jesus teaches us today that what we do externally as our religious practices has a deeper meaning than just blind following a precept. Precepts are established for the sake of our spiritual growth. It is not hard to become a “cultural Catholic” (of course, not in the same way as those who clearly do not believe, but still). Let us ask God to give us the grace of being truthful in our religious practices so they bring us closer to Him.
Łukasz Gołąb – Seminary of the Good Shepherd, Sydney, Australia
Fot. Anna Hecker/Unsplash.com