Recently, the Gospel of the Woman at the Well was presented to us in the liturgy, a gospel that reminds us of how truly cross-cultural Jesus was. During his public ministry, Our Lord was always breaking down cultural barriers, tearing apart the stereotypes that so often define our perception of others. Here was a woman who was filled with her own “cultural limitations”: she saw Jesus initially only as a Jew and herself as a Samaritan woman, which implied all sorts of presuppositions of how they should act, how they should or should not interact (cf. John 4:9). Again and again, Jesus transcends these cultural implications, raising humanity above societal norms and expectations.
In the modern age, with instant global communication, cultural awareness has increased exponentially. It is a beautiful thing to become aware of the richness of the various traditions within nationalities, and Christ himself was born into a culturally rich environment. His incarnation sanctified culture, while simultaneously transcending it—calling all to something greater than the what the cultures of earth dictate. Jesus elevates our ways of thinking to show us that culture is useful only to the extent that it draws us closer to God and thereby one another. He helps us to see that we are not defined primarily by what country or region we’re from or what heritage we have, but that we find our true identity in God, our divine heritage. Indeed, he calls us let go of cultural divisions in order to enter into something far greater: to become citizens of heaven.