There is no doubt that the last decade has been characterised by change. In all areas of life we are confronting changes that would once have been beyond belief. The accelerating rate of technological change has challenged many of us to adapt to new ways of communicating and as the social context of life continues to change, innovations seem to spring up from every corner of society. However, with the challenge of change comes opportunity!
Pope Francis’ recent statements also point toward radical change of the very institutions that form the basis of our modern culture.
The Pope is asking for economic and financial change; political change; and profound social change. In a comment perhaps profoundly indicative of his plans for the future, Pope Francis appealed to the faithful when he said: “God is not afraid of new things! That is why he is continually surprising us, opening our hearts, and guiding us in unexpected ways.” (July 26, 2015)
These are words of comfort, as change can challenge and threaten our sense of self. However, instead, of consistently beating one’s proverbial head up against a wall, Christians have a better option. The very heart of the Christian faith revolves around change, but it is not turning over a new leaf - it is living out a new life.
Change is growth, and as we do our best to grow in faith, we do well to remember that change is a process; it takes time, and that we do not do this alone: “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
There are lessons here for each one of us as we continue to plan and make decisions for the future, in our work situations and in the way we plan our personal lives. We are challenged to move away from envisioning our world of the future to resemble the one in which we have already lived.
The world of tomorrow offers opportunity, but it is one that will demand we educate ourselves and our young people for global citizenship, and training the habits of heart, mind and body, which will equip us for continually changing environments.
Perhaps this is the time to interrogate our own beliefs to ensure we have the flexibility needed to rework them to deal with a changing world, thus preventing the hardening of our hearts and minds, as we work to grow in personal faith.
If we are serious about building our faith communities and actively engaging in the new evangelization; community, not competition, should surely be a priority in the way ahead.
Do we need to change some of our ideas? Should we be educating ourselves to feel more for others, to better develop the ability to empathise with people different from ourselves who have come from different cultures and have had different experiences of life?
There is no doubt that we have the opportunity in every parish to raise awareness of the need to build our capacity as a Faith community. What do we need to do to work within our parishes to identify and build on our personal and group assets, abilities and interests, in order to assist one another to make the necessary changes in our own lives so that we might grow in faith?
Empowering our parish communities with interpersonal skills, information and education, will build our capacity and support us to create resilient and sustainable parish community outcomes as we respond to challenges and opportunities in the coming years.
The courage of the Apostles and the acceptance of change in that of the first Christian community carried forward the work of evangelisation, within the social context of a pagan empire. Their Christian life is for us, the Christians of today, a powerful call to prayer, to faith and to witness.
And when we are weary or worn down by our efforts to seize opportunity to evangelise, it is good to remember that the life which Jesus holds out to us responds to the deepest needs of people. “We were created for what the Gospel offers us: friendship with Jesus and love of our brothers and sisters” (Evangelii Gaudium, 265).
- Bishop Les Tomlinson, Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst, October, 2015