Lately, I’ve been pondering an expression my Father used to have when it looked like the world as we knew it was spinning out of control.
He’d say “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” The older I got, the more convinced I became that Dad was right….but not completely. I’ll explain.
While it may trouble us to see Catholics at one another’s throats, liberals vs conservatives, lay vs clergy, men vs women, gay vs straight, today’s reading from Acts tells us we’ve been here before. St. Stephen, our parish’s patron saints, died reminding people that they, like their ancestors, had to stop opposing the living Spirit of God. Today, Christians around the world continue paying the ultimate price for speaking truth to power. The more things change, the more they stay the same….or, at least, so it seems.
In the Gospel from two weeks ago, Jesus prayed on the night before He died that we would all be one, that the world know us by our desire to seek only the good of others in love. But sometimes it seems that the motto of our Catholic Church has become “See how they shove one another.”
Enough, already! Rather than constantly dwelling on negatives, we’ve got to make a conscious decision to desire what Jesus desired at the Last Supper: That all may be one as the Father is in Jesus and Jesus is in the Father. Notice, Jesus doesn’t say “be one with the Father as the Father is with Him. Jesus asks that we may be one in Him as He is in the Father and the Father is in Him. The goal is not simply to walk with God, but intimate union in God, our beginning and our end.
At the first Pentecost, which we commemorated last weekend, the fire of God’s Holy Spirit was not just with Jesus’ Mother and friends, but penetrated deep within them. That fire was so intense that they proceeded to set a blaze in human hearts which still burns 2,000 years later, despite dyings like St. Stephen’s which sadly continue.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus prayed “Father, the world does not know you.” In 2,000 years, not much seems to have changed. So right now, you and I have a golden opportunity to rewrite my father’s expression something like this: “The more things don’t change, the more things don’t have to stay the same.” Our Bishop Frank recently said “Many people see our times as troubled. I see them as moments of opportunity.” So, how might we fulfill Jesus’ wish that all people come to know the God Who created us through Him? What are some opportunities we can seize so that we can once and for all put aside the same old disunity and discord?
Jesuit Father Jim Martin suggests that we simply ask God for 3 graces. First, ask God for the grace to be open, and truly listen to what may be going on in people’s hearts. Second, ask for the grace to give others the benefit of the doubt. Finally, ask for the grace to really trust that things can get better, for history has taught us that things are darkest before the dawn. Never doubt God’s power to bring unity out of disunity, God’s power to unite heaven and earth If God did it for the early Church, God can and will do it for us. Always remember: The more things like discord and disunity don’t change, the more you and I need not let such things stay the same.
By: Deacon Donald Ross, St. Stephen Parish