This weekend I informed parishioners that after six years as the Parish Priest of the people of the Hurunui I will early next year take up new appointments based in Christchurch city.
I have no doubt that this change will be good for the parish of the Good Shepherd Hurunui who are fortunate to be welcoming a good and holy priest to replace me.
I hope and pray that the change will be good for me too. I am excited by the challenge of it, living in the city with special focus on several missions including Food For Faith and social media, vocations promotion, retreats and seminars, Sunday Mass supply around the diocese and a couple of other ministries. It is unusual for a diocesan priest to be given a challenge that does not involve daily parish ministry and I am both challenged by and grateful for this new opportunity. Please keep me in your prayers.
When I was in the seminary the rector was a wise and holy priest Monsignor Tom Liddy. Some of Tom’s favourite quotable quotes were about change. One comes to mind for me often: “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” (John Henry Newman)
I’m very aware that a simple change of house, job or daily responsibilities is not the kind change that Blessed (Cardinal) Newman was talking about. Many people make such changes without making any real change in their thinking, their perspective or their lives.
Often those who make the most significant life-changes remain within existing responsibilities and commitments. Their change can be real because it is not subject to the moods and demands of people and projects.
That being said, a shift in home and work is a real opportunity for change and growth.
Sometimes change is sought as an escape, a way of avoiding facing up to present realities. When we run away from reality there is rarely any change even though we might have a new job, new home or new wife.
Real change comes about when one acknowledges their own weakness, vulnerability, culpability, pain and woundedness, and accepts that Jesus Christ is the ultimate healer who transforms and heals, who sees our wounds and even seeks out our woundedness as a way of connecting intimately with us.
We have experienced this in our human relationships: true friendships are forged when friends are prepared to be vulnerable with each other. While colleagues exchange successes, true friends are willing to move beyond their pride and share the pain of their failures.
We can take a helpful lesson in change from the annual rhythm of the seasons.
I am sure that Adam and Eve really got worried when the leaves that were so green a few weeks earlier began to fade and fall and the trees seemed to die. But that was just the first autumn which only made sense to them when they experienced the new shoots of green and buds of blossom in the first spring a few months later.
In future years they may still not have welcomed autumn but its arrival would no longer have filled them with the fear of permanent death. Because of their experience twelve months earlier they remember the reality of spring.
It’s a bit like that with us. Our personal past experiences of woundedness and healing, sin and forgiveness enables us to lift our vision beyond the pain and suffering that is an inevitable part of our earthly existence. We no longer have to escape pain and suffering since we know that rather than simply being a problem, difficult circumstances can be a pathway to life.
This is the heart of our faith in Jesus Christ: the event of his crucifixion and death became, by the power of God, the pathway to the full experience of life.
The one who has experienced this healing and transformation has truly changed and is able to calmly approach future suffering and pain knowing that the healing and new life of spring time will follow.