The question “How have you changed” is more complicated than you might realize!
Before you answer, listen to this story.
Mommy, where do I come from?
Most parents know the question is coming. But what does the question mean?
Jimmy comes home and asks “Where do I come from?
Mommy or Daddy bravely launches into an explanation of the differences between boys and girls and the differences that makes.
At the end of doing their best to give a simple explanation of human sexuality, Jimmy says, “Oh, Tommy says he comes from Ohio.”
In their concern to give an age-appropriate answer, they missed what question Jimmy was asked.
Have we changed?
So when I ask the question, I am not thinking of either you or me today. That question is relatively easy for most of us to answer in personal terms … “Yes” and “No.”
I ask a bigger question.
“Have we as humans changed over some 5,000 years?
In reality, in some ways, we have changed, yet in other ways not.
Yes, we have grown in understanding ourselves and our world. We have moved from communicating with grunts and clubs to using pictures, art, and even languages.
Yet, in other ways, we have not changed. We are still asking who am I, where do I come from, how do I relate to others?”
How has our understanding of God changed?
The author of the Letter to the Hebrews summed it up beautifully…
In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe.(Hebrews)
Humans first understood God to be in nature. Then God “spoke” through Abraham, and people called prophets. God gave the Jewish people a special mission. They were “chosen” to be a “light to all people.”
Just as children grow in understanding of themselves and the world around them, so also we grow in our understanding of God.
About 2000 years ago…
God sent the Word in the person of Jesus.
Jesus used words and stories we could understand. He spoke of God’s kingdom or community. He summed it up in the most profound of relationships we could understand… God as a parent. In a patriarchal society, he taught us to pray “Our Father.”
In Jesus’ time, people still struggled with seeing everything in terms of the power of kings and subjects. Think Palm Sunday!
So Jesus, the night before he died, acted out what God’s kingdom or community was. It was so much more… and less… than they understood. He, who they regarded as Lord and Master, humbled himself to wash their feet.
Then, the next day, he showed how much God cared for all of us, even those who rejected him. He acted out the supreme manifestation of the forgiving lovef characteristic of God and God’s kingdom or community.
There are to be no limits to loving… we are to love all, even our enemies.
“Can’t you see I am doing something new?“
The words of Isiah still ring true in the midst of the centuries of changes occurring.
For over 150 years the Popes have been calling us to understand that even as society changes (think of the Industrial Revolution and what we sometimes call the digital revolution) God is still trying to teach us to live as sons and daughters.
Pope Leo XIII wrote an encyclical (Rerum Novarum) on “new things”
Forty years later Pope XI wrote addressed addressed the lack of subsidiarity and solidarity in a changing world.
Pius XII wrote in Mystici Corporis of what some people thought was heretical, thinking… “we are the body of Christ.”
Pope John XXIII builds on previous teachings to highlight the importance of combatting global disparities. But he was met with a cry of “Mater si, Magistra no” (the church is mother but not teacher in things relating to social order
Get the idea? The successors of Jesus’ vicar Peter are challenging us to see that there are implications of Jesus’ teaching in a world that has changed, are, in fact, merely spelling out what Jesus asked of his followers in whatever age.
Pope Francis walks in their footsteps in asking us all to listen to what the Spirit is asking of us in the change in how we see each other.
What is the Spirit asking you to change in yourself and today’s world?
PS If you don’t t think the Spirit is asking you to change, you are not listening to the Spirit.