Just one human life can change the world, as I reflected here last week. Those lives that fulfilled that potential, and who “used that power for good,” as a movie script might say, are worth celebrating.
This is a quite literally a revolutionary notion; it fueled the American Revolution. But rarely do such civil revolutions result in the desired opportunity, since they are not often founded on the personal revolution required for human beings to raise their own lives to the level of virtue of which they are capable. The Founding Fathers never ceased to call both the children of their families and the citizens of the nation they founded to put aside selfishness and strive for virtue.
The foundation of this hope and this vision is precisely the one life that saves the world, Jesus of Nazareth. The tiny infant we so recently greeted, we will soon see executed by religious and political processes he did not seek to overturn. Our liturgy moves straight through his death to his resurrection and ascension, as may and as must we all. This is the full potential of human life in Christ.
We are daily bombarded by commentary and commercials that assail us with what we need to change about other people, and what we need to purchase in order for our lives to change. Both lines of thought lead us away from the change that is genuinely possible and uniquely necessary: the change of ourselves.
This week we begin the season of Lent, the time the Church sets aside for all her members to change, whatever their state in life, their age, their responsibility, or their achievement. This is the necessary step that cannot be omitted on the path to changing the world for the good: changing the one life that we have control over – our own.
In other words, forget chocolate and forget beer. Go big or go home – which exhortation actually works well for Lent, when many folks settle for giving up something little, to which they return comfortably when the season ends. So don’t just change your diet, change your lives! Or as the prophet Joel tells it, Rend you hearts, not your garments. (Joel 2:13)
The Prophet continues: Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil. So by going back – back to our Creator, back to our Father – we move ahead. To make progress toward what is truly new, we return to our source and find there, in Him, our goal. By this we change, with our desire and our cooperation, and by the powerful work of grace in our lives because of our intimacy with Jesus the Lord. Changing our souls, we begin to change the world.
On our parish letterhead and over the arch that leads to the doors in our church, my predecessor Father William Thompson printed the statement from our patroness Saint Bernadette Soubirous: I must become a saint; my Jesus expects it. Through the sacraments of the Church, God makes this possible; through the Constitution of the United States, our nation frees us to achieve it. Any change in the world, any change for good, is brought about by what we do with our one human life. Go ahead and do it! Do it now; you have the power.