By Bishop Gerald R. Barnes
Beginning with the moment he called Peter and Andrew to follow him in ministry, the Lord Jesus did not hesitate to ask those he encountered to embark on a new path in their life. Those many moments throughout the scriptures, from Peter to Zacchaeus to the woman at the well to Paul, inspire us to be open to the transformation that Jesus offers us in our own lives.
Why then are we often so unsettled by the prospect of change? Perhaps it challenges our sense of security, our need to know what’s coming next, the value we place on “a bird in the hand.”
My mind always turns to change at this time of year. I preside over so many Confirmation liturgies, where both youth and adults are passaging from one leg of their faith journey into full initiation in our Catholic Church. They have made it through the established program of Catechetical formation that is offered in our parishes, now it’s time for them to discern (with our guidance and encouragement) what road they will take in ministry and involvement in their church.
School graduations are also happening everywhere and at all levels, from junior high school to graduate school. I congratulate all of the graduates on their achievement and the dedication to study that they have shown. I pray for them as they begin the next level of school or pursuits in the working world.
Summer is also a time of transition in our parishes as new pastoral assignments for priests and deacons take effect. Leadership changes can be a source of anxiety for both the priest, and the community that he has come to serve. Sometimes leadership of a parish or school changes suddenly, due to unforeseen circumstances, making for an even more difficult transition.
For this reason our Diocese has a Transitions Ministry, designed to help parishes, schools and ministry groups cope with major changes. Participants are encouraged to voice their thoughts and feelings, good and bad, about the change, to listen to the perspectives of others on the same issue, and together to chart a course forward in shared ministry.
What does it say about us that we need a ministry specifically to help guide us through transitions? We are human and we have some resistance to change. But we are also people of faith who are called, like Peter, Zaccheus, Paul and others, to accept change with gratitude and trust in the Lord Jesus. No matter how good, and safe, things have been for us, God calls us always to the new. If we embrace change in this way, we model for others who may be more fearful that it isn’t so bad after all. It is life-giving.
Navigating these kinds of changes in our parishes and in the graduations and confirmations of our lives can also be seen as a kind of rehearsal for the biggest transition of all. When we approach our passing from earthly life will we do it with fear and bitterness? Or will we greet with gratitude and trust in our life to come in the Lord?
Practice makes perfect.