“Be the change you want to see in the world”
“Never change who you are”
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, No one thinks of changing himself.”
“You were born this way”
These are all familiar quotes to us. We hear them in music, in movies, and see them on cheesy prints they sell at gift stores. One challenges us to change ourselves for the good of the world, while the other embraces comfort in not changing at all.
Often people assume they can change the world by giving in to who they feel they are. This means embracing all faults and making them excusable by thinking that removing those faults would be dishonest to who they are. For example, I really struggle reaching out to people. I am shy about meeting new people, and often I make excuses for myself because I am too afraid to get out of my comfort zone. I found out there is another new mom not far from me and I was so afraid to reach out to her. I made excuses like “she’s a bit older than me”, “she won’t like me” , “she is a stranger”, and “I’m too shy”. I convinced myself it was okay to just keep to myself because of my introverted nature. It took several weeks for me to just send her an e-mail.
It seems more apparent that people would rather change their surroundings than change who they are internally. We may challenge ourselves to do good deeds, which in turn can make an impact on ourselves, but it is only temporary if it isn’t pursued and ultimately will yield little or no fruit if we do not continue to change ourselves.
We may need to reflect on the little things we do and ask ourselves some hard questions. Am I humble? Am I modest in dress? Do I love selflessly? Do I always expect something in return when I do something kind for someone else? Do I really put God first?
The change we embrace must not be solely fuelled by the desire for what we wish to see happen in the word nor in what the world wants from us. Instead, any change we make must be rooted in Christ, who is truth and love. It is only by Him that we can be made perfect. This conversion is about seeking holiness rather than temporary happiness.
Christianity calls us to change the world by changing ourselves daily by picking up our cross and conforming out lives to Christ. It means turning away from sins that we may have allowed to become habits in our daily lives. It requires repentance. A murderer can become a capuchin, but it requires a change of heart through conversion, not just once, but daily.
As the Christmas season draws near, let us prepare our hearts for the celebration of the Incarnation. Let us change our ways and continue to pursue a real relationship with Christ, one that requires us to change and to grow. Let us change into the people of God, not of the world.
I have noticed that when the subject of faith, morals, and truth comes up, many resort to using emotionalism. Christians and non-Christians alike can fall into this method of communication and at times, it can be somewhat be manipulative and lack a solid foundation of reason. It is something I have been guilty of, and as the years have passed I have been working on correcting, though it isn’t easy.
Many will use emotions to justify choices or their moral preferences because it is simply easier to be subject to emotion than to reason. Do we do the same when we are trying to have important conversations with people about the faith? Do we resort to emotion first rather than providing sound information rooted in logic and reason?
I have found in my experience that what may make me feel one way may make someone else feel completely different. This is because our emotions are completely subjective. Emotions are unique to us, and are rooted in our personality. Although emotions can help us in sharing an experience, or perhaps help others relate with what we are saying, emotionalism cannot stand up on its own in a rational dialogue with someone.
When we use emotionalism to try and convey a truth, we may find ourselves frustrated when people do not understand us. We may feel so passionately about something, and then when we seek to explain why, our explanations will inevitably fall short. An emotional response or the way something may or may not make a person feel is not a valid consideration when approaching the truth. I am not saying that we shouldn’t share our experiences, nor am I saying they are completely invalid. I am, however, saying that it should not end there.
Throughout history there have been countless men and women who have had an experience of God in their lives. These encounters with the Lord have helped aid them in their spiritual life and the impact that their experience had has even lead many people to the Church. These people, however, who were effective witnesses in the world, were able to not simply point to an experience but to a reality. St. Peter in his epistle reminds us to “always be prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15).
Let us always seek the truth that goes beyond emotion and to convey that to the world “with gentleness and reverence.”
So much of the world, especially western society, promotes a childless lifestyle. In fact, it glorifies it. A life without children is so often seen as the new American Dream, where all you need to do is focus on yourself and perhaps a significant other. People believe that without children, you can do whatever makes you happy in life without needing to worry about something or someone holding you down. Children are seen as a burden to many, and being a parent as a lifetime chore.
Many view children as horrible, crying, screaming, dirty monsters that ultimately make life worse and prevent us from being happy, wealthy, and free. Maybe it is because they have seen families struggle financially, emotionally, or physically after having children. The idea of sacrificing for someone that is dependent, vulnerable, small, and needy is as much of a turn off as running into a burning building soaked in gasoline.
I guess it may be easy to forget that we all were babies, children, teenagers.
I believe that it isn’t that these people hate babies and children, but rather they hate the suffering that may come with having children. Children require time just as any other relationship.They need constant care and attention, and this means we need to sacrifice the time that we would normally spend doing things for ourselves. Children and babies push parents to limits of frustration, sleep deprivation, and so on.
I can say that because I know that my own parents struggled many days because of us kids. I know there were days my parents were exhausted after shifts, and yet they still invested the time into caring for us. I know it meant they had less time to do the things that they wanted to do, but they still found joy in doing what they had to do, which was loving us and making sure we had what we needed on a daily basis. Twenty plus years later, I can confidently say that my parents still loved us even when things were hard.
I am pregnant with our baby girl, Evangeline, and already Mike and I brace ourselves for ‘advice’ from people encouraging us to stop at one child, or to maybe try for one boy and one girl and then avoid more in every possible way. It is especially disheartening when the advice is coming from loved ones, or from people who have children and seem to voice regret from having one or two too many.
Parenthood means loving far beyond yourself, dying to yourself every single day. I may only be 6 months into my pregnancy, but even now, Mike and I have had challenges. We have had to make time for appointments. Mike has had to give up eating certain foods because some things just don’t sit well with me. I don’t sleep the same anymore. I can’t run on the treadmill for an hour every day so I can have a totally in shape, model body. Mike has to endure a woman that wears the baggies clothes most days because her normal clothes just don’t fit the same anymore.
This is only the beginning of changing challenges. The truth is though, I don’t need a perfect body, a perfect sleep schedule, or money to blow on material goods. Those things will not make me or my family holy.
I speak for Mike and myself when I say that we anticipate redemptive suffering which is something that many refuse to even acknowledge exists. We can anticipate sleepless nights. We can anticipate strain on our relationship. We can anticipate temper tantrums, marker drawings on the wall, spilt drinks, and pulled out hair. I do not want to deny us of sacrifices we can give to God out of love for the souls entrusted to us. I do not want to miss the opportunity to try and live as the Holy Family lived on earth and now eternally does in heaven. I do not want to say ‘no’ to God for his gift of life.
We need fathers. We need mothers. The world needs moms and dads who actively demonstrate love for the family that goes beyond wanting to fulfil their own desires. The World needs to see spouses who can’t have children naturally to seek to be parents to children without mothers and fathers or to the community around them. The World needs to see that parenthood is a blessing, not a curse; that children are gifts from God and not simply things we can take for ourselves as a right to have, nor deny when God lays them in our hands to care for them. If your call is to be married, to give yourself to your spouse in fullness and in love, that desire has a natural, God-given purpose: life-giving love, which may bring with it, parenthood.
Let us pray for all those discerning their vocations, that they may discern with willing and open hearts. Let us pray that couples discerning marriage are open to life. Let us pray that God may grant strength to parents struggling with their state of life, spiritually, physically, and emotionally. Finally, let us pray for our world, that parenthood, children, and life may be celebrated and that we may all be thankful for the gift to emulate the love of the Trinity and of the Holy Family.
And He said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. – Luke 12:15
I’m sure that many of us could easily admit that our culture is materialistic. From the time we were children, whether we know it or not, we learned selfish tendencies, and in more than just materialistic ways. We have been taught to look after ourselves first, and while this can be important to keep ourselves healthy (mentally, emotionally, and spiritually), unfortunately we often slip into habits of greed and selfishness, sometimes without even realizing it.
The way we interact with people may be selfish. Do we wish to surround ourselves with people that will make us feel good all the time? Do we want to only be surrounded by people that fit a certain criteria? If we surround ourselves with people that must make us feel good all time and never be truly honest or challenge us to grow to be better people, then we are simply being proud. Relationships should be rooted in love, and a desire to lead each other to holiness. If we only have friends because they make us feel good, or they satisfy a need for entertainment, then it should not surprise us if eventually those relationships wither and die.
Although there is beauty in friendship, and there can certainly be good fruits from many of our relationships, the goal should not be our own satisfaction. We certainly need care and love, and it is definitely necessary at times to ask in humility for respect and love from those that claim to love us, but the end result should aim to help the other grow closer to Christ.
Do we often think about others first? When we do things for people, do feel like we need to always be thanked, praised, or paid back? If we are truly acting out of love, then we should not feel the need for all or any of those things. Love does not require a payback, a thank you, or recognition from other people. Of course we should do what we can to thank those who are loving towards us, but when we are bitter when we are not noticed for being loving, then that loving action instantly becomes twisted with our pride. When we love, maybe we should just love expecting nothing at all. We should see the love we give as a reward in itself.
Let temporal things be in the use, eternal things in the desire.” ― Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
I am not saying it is not a worthy pursuit to be happy. What I can say, however, is that holiness ultimately trumps an earthly happiness. What should take priority above all things, even our own happiness, is being holy, and seeking to have a good relationship with Christ. There are things in life that require sacrifice. There are things in life that will hurt, and that hurt may go on for a long time. There are things in life that maybe we didn’t plan or even want, but have been given to us to help us to grow strong, and to grow in love.
If when we were children and we were taught in schools to do what made us happy rather than to always do what is right, imagine the chaos our world would be in. If we were taught growing up to love, to do the right thing, even if it meant not getting what we wanted, and to be selfless, we would live in a world where things would be much different. If we each sought actual holiness instead of happiness, I think in turn we will also find happiness. Happiness does not always lead to holiness, but holiness will lead to a joy far greater in heaven.
During this lenten season, we are called to reflect on our relationship with Christ and prepare ourselves for Easter. The Church calls us to fast, to pray, and to give alms. We should hold ourselves accountable for sins of selfishness and greed that may be in the way of having a better relationship with God, and with the people that surround us in our homes, workplaces, and in society in general. Let us seek to live our lives that are holy above all else, that seek simplicity and truth, and that help us to be humble. The things we accumulate in this world will not come with us when we die. If we wish to accumulate something in life, it should be acts of love, and a desire to love selflessly above all else. This is what will yield good fruit, if not in this world, then in the eternal kingdom of heaven.