If the Catholic Church wants to thrive, we need to be open to change
A Reflection for the Friday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Find today’s readings here.
Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you.
Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Heb 13:1-8)
“Change” is one of those words that I never thought was controversial before peering into Catholic Twitter.
I have felt that shock especially in reading some of the reactions to the publication of Cardinal Robert W. McElroy’s thoughtful essay about the call for synodality published in America last week, and I expect similar reactions to when listeners tune into the discussion with Cardinal McElroy on the “Jesuitical” podcast episode this week.
Nothing written in the essay seemed inflammatory to me, and yet the replies to our tweets linking to it were disheartening. Even if they were mostly trolls or bots or a vocal minority, odds are that someone out there reaffirmed an opposition to change at the expense of the church.
Looking over today’s first reading, I was pleased to find words of actualization that were complementary to some of the calls for change today.
Regressing to a past that never existed—valuing white-picket fences over open arms—in the desperate hope of escaping modern ills will not solve anything.
Above all else, today’s readings are a reminder that, even when our leaders are gone from the physical plane, the word of God and mission of the church remain as strong as they ever have been and will continue to be strong. It is our responsibility, then, to carry on as new leaders and continue the consistency of Christ into today and forever.
Just as I have matured and grown as a person yet remain the same person in flesh and spirit, so too does the church evolve in bringing in excluded voices while reiterating Christ’s mission.
This does not mean changing to whatever is presently politically popular. The bulk of today’s reading is a list of virtues to remember in carrying out Christ’s works: hospitality, mindfulness, faithfulness and charity. All of this is guided by a clear morality; no one is seriously considering giving that up.
What it means is looking across the whole of the church’s existence and amplifying what works for the most disadvantaged among us. That will mean considering a female diaconate and a eucharistic revival and whatever else is needed to fully realize what was led by Christ.
Regressing to a past that never existed—valuing white-picket fences over open arms—in the desperate hope of escaping modern ills will not solve anything. It will just create an “us versus them” dichotomy for superiority points at the expense of much-needed growth.
And that growth will require change.