Saturday, 24 October 2009

On Change

To live is to change, and to be perfect is to change often - John Henry Newman
If there is one sure challenge we all face, beyond taxes and death, it is change. However, if there is one thing we all resist it is change. When religion talks about change it usually affirms that God never changes. When we give assent to this statement it is important to remember however, that it is our understanding of God that must change and be allowed to grow and expand. What we understood about God as children, will not and cannot serve us as adults. And so change for humanity is not only inevitable but totally necessary if we wish to grow into healthy spiritual beings.

Any religion that refuses to accept change on the basis that this is what our father’s taught us, and so on, is a religion that is still based on fear. When we read scripture and doctrine for the purpose of interpreting who or what is right and wrong, it is merely being used as a legal or historical document. Such limited views may introduce more doubt and fear. Fear to experience God who exists outside time and space. Fear to allow God to do what He does best. Fear to move into the unknown. Fear to embrace an ever expanding universe. The great litmus test for interpreting scripture and religious doctrine for me is ‘does it move me to Oneness’? Or does it cause me to feel separate from my neighbour? Any religion that espouses separation from its neighbours must be acting out of fear and suspicion. We have to learn to trust in God who will reveal our Oneness with the world. This for most of us this may require a quantum leap in change and understanding. But God is patient – change does not have to happen overnight – that’s we he gave us ‘time’!

Change can make us profoundly uncomfortable. Especially when it relates to religious issues. For example just this week the Vatican announced that they would welcome all disenfranchised Anglican priests to their flock. This offer was specifically aimed at celibate Anglican priest who are unhappy at women bishops and with the acceptance of homosexual clergy being introduced into the Church of England. It is interesting to note that during this same week a religious leader of note remarked that if the question regarding the role of women in the church, homosexuality were so important Jesus would have expounded on them not just once but again and again. Are these questions merely a matter of accepting change or do we feel we need to fight all God’s battles for him?

Religious traditionalist/fundamentalist usually resist change. Why? Because its supporters believe that since God does not change than neither should they. At the same time it helps to solidify their particular brand of doctrine. After all they will readily announce, “our religion has always maintained that . . . . .” and so on. Admittedly, we all tend to derive some degree of comfort out of fixed continuity. And when that continuity is disturbed or taken away we may even experience temporary feelings of insecurity or fear. Hence we will try to get back to that illusory space or time where we last experienced feelings of security and comfort. Rather than resist should we not ask ‘where is the gift in this”? As God’s creation is an ongoing thing so too we are called forward. This requires change. But we need not fear change. Change under God’s direction is filled with promise and salvation. It is a promise of healing, forgiveness, peace and un ending joy. All we have to do is be open to change.

On June 15, 2005 The Catholic New Times published the following article on the question of change:

When three Canadian Catholic cardinals recently returned from Rome, following the election of Pope Benedict XVI, Marc Cardinal Ouellet publicly responded to the question of change in the Vatican. "If there needs to be change, it needs to be in the world, not in the doctrine."

Compare this response to the following quote from Fr. Diarmuid O'Murchu in his book Quantum Theology. "Where religions have failed most dismally is in their perception and understanding of the world, which they all tend to dismiss as an inferior, ungodly, and transitory reality. This cosmology goes right back to the Agricultural Revolution, which projected the original mechanistic image that the world was an object to be conquered and .controlled. Adopting this worldview, the religions concocted a self-inflationary, eschatological myth, whereby the world would come to nothing and the religions themselves would triumph. What was intended to be an instrument of God became a god in its own right; religion became an outrageous form of idolatry."

Place these two quotes against the recent warnings from the UN on the state of our global environment ." An estimated 60 per cent of the ecosystems that support life on earth. Fresh water, fisheries and the atmosphere--are quickly being degraded and depleted. They are not expected to last past 2050."

If one takes the time to read O'Murchu's book one will quickly recognize that serious change in church doctrine is not only necessary but essential. Again Fr. Diarmuid states: "Instead of trying to conquer and eliminate the negative, we [must] try to comprehend (not distance) and appreciate its complementary role for the positive."

As God's co-creators, we share an equal and awesome responsibility to bring about those changes. For some, change may require a quantum leap in faith. Remember however, faith is never static and change is the very dynamic of the Holy Spirit.

O'Murchu brilliantly illustrates how 'collective sins' have lead to destructive 'systems' which prevent us from seeing our connectiveness to the world, and indeed the universe. How can we begin to realize our common God given responsibilities if we say: you need to change not us? It is only when we begin to see the bigger picture that we will be better prepared to accept God's universal plan for salvation. O'Murchu goes on to say that "Once we begin to understand and internalize the sacredness of life from within--ourselves, our planet, and our universe--then the classical academic search for an external agent may become quite irrelevant."

Is the Vatican ready for change?

This article was also later published in ‘Online Catholics', an independent Australian e journal under my name.

There are those who refuse to accept change and those who accept change as part of our evolutionary growth especially as it applies to spirituality. A Church that does not change cannot hope to serve those who live in the reality of the present. God the Creator of the ever expanding Universe meets us where we are today, not yesterday, not tomorrow but here in this Holy Instant. Salvation does not change our past, nor does it make promises for tomorrow, it is here in the moment.

"When we pray for miracles and nothing happens could it be because we did not want to accept change?"

"Seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world." A Course in Miracles

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