Sunday, January 21, 2018

Fear of Change

It has taken me most of my priesthood to realize that human beings, in general, hate two things: surprises and change. For the longest time I thought I was the only one who hated surprises, but years as a priest, particularly as a pastor, have taught me just how common this dislike is. And the anxiety around the arrival of our new bishop has underscored how deeply we fear change. Oh yes, on the surface there’s a lot of  excitement to meet him, but scratch that surface and what you find is fear- what is he going to change (that I don’t want changed)?

Surprise is more easily understandable. Realize it or don’t, there is a certain amount of control freak in all of us. Surprises remind us how little we actually control. 

Our dislike for change, on the other hand, is some what illogical because we live in bodies that are constantly changing on a planet that is in constant motion. Every created thing in the universe is constantly changing.

I think if we look closely we will find that our dislike of change is linked to our fear of death. Somewhere inside we think, “If I can avoid change, I can avoid death.” If you listen carefully, some people want to not only avoid change and stop time  but actually try to run the clock backwards, as if that were even possible. The earth continues to rocket through space at 67,000 miles per hour change is absolutely inevitable. 

So how do we deal with change and death?

The gospel teaches us to embrace both. Death is not something to be feared but the door through we which we can pass to eternal life. And change? Change is the key.

Repent and believe in the gospel. So we are told today.  But the word repent in St. Mark does not refer to sack cloth and ashes. It refers to change. 
Metanoeite. From two words that mean “change” and “mind”. 

How much change is required? Total. Simply look at the second reading today from St. Paul. 

let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully.

And this change is not a one time thing. It is meant to be continuous. We must constantly be about imersing ourself more deeply in the mystery of  God, and allowing ourselves to be transformed by God’s grace. And the word “metanoia” reminds us that it must begin in our minds, our way of thinking about things and people. 

There will always be those who believe that it is somehow virtuous to dig your heels in and “take a stand.” The earth is still rotating at 1000 mph and moving through space at 67,000 mph. 

It would seem to me that the wiser choice is to throw ourselves headlong into the arms of a loving God and enjoy the ride. It is guaranteed to be filled with both surprise and change, but with God I can know for sure that it is all for my benefit and the benefit of all God’s children.