Growth and Change

05-08-2022From the Pastor's DeskMsgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

At times we quizzically ask, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” That simple question came to mind after a conversation I had that was thought provoking: What comes first - growth or change? In order to change growth has to take place and if growth is going to occur change is necessary. From birth to death our bodies and minds are constantly changing. Our bodies grow physically from infancy to adulthood to old age. Our minds are filled with ideas, thoughts, and information and experiences that we reflect on. Our ultimate quest is to see not only how we got to where we are in this point in life, but where our life’s journey is leading us.

The readings at daily and Sunday Mass during the Easter Season mirror the journey of life from the perspective of faith. Who is God? Where does Jesus fit in? What is the Church? To find the ultimate meaning and direction for our lives we need to grow in our knowledge, experience, and relationship with God. We saw that in last Sunday’s Gospel (John 21:1-19) where Jesus appeared a third time after His resurrection from the dead. Jesus had made a great difference in the lives of His apostles, but after His crucifixion the change He made came to an abrupt halt. In fact in the resurrection experience from last Sunday’s Gospel Jesus is the one who took the initiative. A group of the apostles had gone back to the way they lived before they were part of the inner group that lived and ministered with Jesus during His three year ministry. When Jesus directed them to cast the net on the right side of the boat they caught a large number of fish after a night of no fish. It was at a that point that John said, “It is the Lord!” Not only had He risen, He came back to be with them and renewed and strengthened their faith and way of life as His followers. The Risen Christ not only changed how they now saw Him, He nurtured the growth of their knowledge and faith. Now they were ready to do what He called them to do and to grow to maturity as His followers and apostles.

When the priest holds up the Host that is the Body of Christ just before we are invited to receive Jesus in Holy Communion the words of St. John in last Sunday’s Gospel are reechoed. We don’t hear, “It is the Lord!”, but, “Behold the Lamb of God, Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world. Blest are those called to the supper of the Lamb!” This proclamation taken to heart is what we all innately long to hear. Growth in faith occurs and changes our perspective on ourselves, everyone else, the world we live in and who it is we all long to be part of and who wants to be part of our lives. Growth happens only when we focus on His presence in our midst and His love for us personally and communally. That is what changes us from people who know about God into people who are growing ever closer to Him in gratitude, wonder, and joy. That is what makes us an intricate and intimate part of the Church, the Body of Christ in our world.

In the first reading at Mass today (Acts 11:14, 43-52) we see St. Paul and St. Barnabas preaching with such enthusiasm that many people are listening and responding with ever greater hope and joy. Just as Jesus was rejected by religious leaders so Paul and Barnabas are rejected. But they do not give up in defeat and anger, the simply move on to those who are open and receptive. Their goal was not to defeat the ones rejecting them but to offer faith, hope, and truth to those who were willing to change and embrace Jesus as they did. That was the beginning of the Church in the first generation after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Now is our time to grow in our knowledge and love of God to change in ourselves what is not good and to offer hope, light, love, and truth to the world we live in. Our challenges are many in an atmosphere that sorely needs divine wisdom and presence with the war in the Ukraine, abortion, same sex attraction, and what is being taught morally to our children in our schools. These are just some of our challenges. It is only Jesus Christ who is the Way, the Life, and the Truth. He did not come to change the world but to transform us into the very image and likeness in which we have been created, God’s image. Only growth in our knowledge, love, and unity with God will change ourselves and the world we live in for the best. 

Happy Mother's Day to all our mothers and to all of us as Holy Mother Church. I offer Psalm 46 and its prayer for your prayerful reflection:

God is for us a refuge and strength,
a helper close at hand, in time of distress,
so we shall not fear though the earth should rock, though the mountains fall into the depths of the sea; even though its waters rage and foam,
even though the mountains be shaken by its waves.

The Lord of hosts is with us:
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
The waters of a river give joy to God's city,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within, it cannot be shaken;
God will help it at the dawning of the day.
Nations are in tumult, kingdoms are shaken:
he lifts his voice, the earth shrinks away.
The Lord of hosts is with us:
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
Come, consider the works of the Lord,
the redoubtable deeds he has done on the earth. He puts an end to wars over all the earth;
the bow he breaks, the spear he snaps.
He burns the shields with fire.
"Be still and know that I am God,
supreme among the nations, supreme on the earth!" The Lord of hosts is with us:
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be. Amen.

Psalm Prayer: All-powerful Father, the refuge and strength of your people, you protect in adversity and defend in prosperity those who put their trust in you. May they persevere in seeking your will and find their way to you through obedience.