Celebrate Change! Are you crazy! Let’s get real, Fr. Matt nobody celebrates change. Most folks are terrified of losing their jobs and worse losing their homes. Who celebrates reorganization in the company with the fear of losing your job? Or, a change in your health that reveals a new ache and pain or worse terminal condition. And who, by God, celebrates any change in their religion.
I have a precious eighty-something senior asked me some very good questions about her “new” Catholic Church she was attending. She wanted to know the difference between being Catholic in this “refreshed” version of being Catholic. She realized very quickly that the difference was the “organization” and not the faith. She admitted that she loved the warm feeling in her new church. People smiled and asked her how her week went. She liked the fact that the prayers in the Mass were very similar in both traditions. However, she admitted that she still was uncomfortable embracing a stranger at the “kiss of peace.” Or even more frightening, whenever I invited people to join me around the altar to pray for family and friends she felt very awkward. This invitation to come up to the altar has actually driven people away from this church. After all, we were not taught to respect the clergy and the sanctuary was their turf “out of bounds” for the rest of us common folk.
She listens to the same the Gospel stories that are read at both churches every Sunday. What she sadly shared was that her friends in the “old” church had some unkind remarks on her moving away to this “refreshed” tradition. Their criticism hurt her very much. Worse, bulletin warnings in her old church implied she would no longer be welcomed back to pray with her neighbors. She celebrated the sacraments for over eighty years in that church and this news was shocking and sadly very disheartening.
She wanted to feel comfortable in this “refreshed” tradition. The faces on the statues looked warm and friendly. She enjoyed singing the old familiar hymns. But she struggled with the “voices.” The voices of fear implanted by the organization that she was doing something terribly wrong by “crossing the line.”
She humbly summed up her experience with this profound candid observation. I have been coming for four months to this “refreshed” church and I am happy to see my kids—(now all grown up) coming to church again and learning about God’s love. Still, “At my age, change is hard.”
I am sure that she never imagined that her faith journey for over eighty-years would lead her down this road. Change was hard for the early church where it had its share of family division over the new teachings. Jesus critics hunted him down all the way to a cross. From His cross, Jesus humbly said: “Forgive them Father.”
This woman of faith is learning that despite the changes it is God who cares for all of us no matter where we worship on Sunday. She has discovered that change means an “open mind with an open heart.” This “refreshed” Catholic community welcomes anyone to the table of the Lord who has felt the sting of rejection. Jess called many in his lifetime who you were on the fringes of society to enter his kingdom.
I am aware that many people are fearful of change and it takes courage and trust to move beyond our comfort zone. This is not a stale faith community where people out of curiosity are coming into its doors. This “refreshed” version of Catholic is very human and it has its share of imperfections. The people who worship here believe God has the power to touch the heart of every a person and break through to a child in a way that the old church, often cannot.
It is true your neighbors can refuse to listen to you, turn their backs on you, reject your values, and walk away from everything you stand for; but there is always still another teacher, God, from whom they cannot walk away. God can reach into places, including hell itself, into which we cannot reach. God is always there, with a love more patient and solicitousness more fierce than is our own. From that we can draw courage and consolation. This community believes that they are surrounded always by a love, a concern, an anxiety, and an invitation to awaken to love that far exceed anything we can offer. God is the real teacher and has powers we don't have.
God is walking with us this morning when we pray: “The Lord will rescue his servants, no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.” (Psalm 34:22).
Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that they seek your call to be servants of one another, loving each other in the name of the one who first loved us.