I don’t quite know why my head at this moment in time is filled with the notion of ‘change.’ Perhaps it is due to the fact that change is all round me – schools have closed, work has finished for another academic year, some of those I know and work with have retired or moved on to pastures new! On the home front, great-nephews and nieces seem to have suddenly changed from babies to young people, eager to experience all that life offers.
Regardless of the reasons for the change, I don’t usually respond well to it – at least initially. To give you an example, on the night before a holiday, I could easily change my mind – suddenly I want to say at home, take daily trips to the beach rather than head off into the unknown and all that the journey entails. However, I refrain from saying no to my fellow companions and the dawn of day finds me on my merry way! (Happily, once I begin my reticence vanishes)
Why the reluctance to move forward, to change? Is it a desire to hold onto the familiar? A fear of the unknown? Does change force me to face the fact that I am getting older, aging and that perhaps by resisting change I can hold back time? Fear of moving out of my ‘comfort zone’
The question now is how do I, how do we cope with change? How can we see change as a Challenge and an opportunity to begin again – a New Beginning you might say. We all have a say in how we react to change. Rather than treat it like an enemy or something to be fear, we need to allow it to become our greatest ally and recognise that all change involves some sort of sacrifice, some sort of recognising that growth and development come with change and make us stronger and more resilient.
Who or what can help us? For some the answer may lie in psychology, in mindfulness or in energizing exercises which focus our breathing and calm the nerves. But, for Christians, it is the presence of Jesus in our lives that gives us strength to face the future, to face the challenges change brings to our lives, to make changes which make the world a better and more just place for all of mankind. In his Jubilee audience of June 18, 2016, Pope Francis reminds us that with Jesus by our side, with his hand outstretched we can hear him say to us, ‘Come, come to me. I will do the work: I will change your heart, I will change your life, I will make you happy.’ … All we have to do is listen and respond.
This type of change- a Spiritual change- is deep and profound and demands that we reach deep inside ourselves, reach out to others and accept the need to make sacrifices. This change is more radical than changing jobs or cities – it is recognising that Jesus is with us and that he is inviting us to change our life. There is no need for fear or for looking back, for life with Jesus, strengthened with the Holy Spirit, will banish our restlessness, our fears and anxieties and help us to become the face, hands and feet of Jesus here on earth. In a flash, we receive God’s mercy and open ourselves up to true life and true joy.
Perhaps fear of change is a result of searching for an answer to our purpose in life, our purpose on this earth. As Saint Augustine put it ‘ our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.’ Once we say YES to Jesus, we can be assured that he will do the rest and we fear change no more. We can open our hearts to his love and forgiveness; we can respond to the promises made at Baptism and live a life truly fulfilled. We will no longer resist change; fear change or run from change. We will be capable, as Pope Francis said in 2016, ‘of truly great things. We will be part of God’s Kingdom – a Kingdom of joy, always driving us forward, a Kingdom able to give us the strength to change things (‘Address to young people at World Youth Day, Blonia Park, Krakow, in Poland, July 29, 2016)
We will be able to make a difference. We will be able to put our restlessness, our fears and anxieties to good use. Safe in the presence of Jesus, we will welcome all that life throws at us – we can become the person we are meant to be faithful, socially aware, trusting ready to build a fair and just society which will change the world for all creation.
Mary O Boyle is Diocesan Advisor for Post Primary Schools, Diocese of Derry.