As readily as it comes to our lips, the expression, “new and improved” has not been around very long, as such things go. Associating newness with improvement has been an idea in human minds for rather longer, but only since people stopped associating predictability with safety and began to weary of the same old same old.
Not exempt from such inclinations myself in regard to things like shoes, which when new entice me by being so spiff and shiny, I forget how stiff and ill-fitting they are on feet that were so happy in the old ones. This tendency leaves me hoist on a cruel petard when it comes to the content of so much of my work, as weekly and even daily I seek something new to say, while having only of that which is unchanged and unchanging of which to speak.
I share with many teachers and preachers the restless search for something new to say, to get attention; not for myself, but for Him whom I preach. This search, this temptation to avoid what has already been said can lead any of us away from what truly needs to be said, which is the unchanging content of God’s perfect self-revelation in Jesus Christ.
It is so common to want something new, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.(Heb. 13:8) That can strike some folks as, well, tedious. But though the offer God extends to us is always same as He has extended before and will ever after, it is this: Behold, I make all things new!(Rev. 21:5)
That juxtaposition of sameness with newness is simultaneously the obstacle to and the answer for our deepest human craving. While God and all He encompasses remain unchanging, the result of an authentic encounter with Him is the hoped-for change for the one who encounters.
God’s truth, God’s Word, God’s salvation: always the same. Our life, our world, all creation: transformed by God’s grace.
Coming next weekend with the relentlessness of advancing spring (okay, maybe that’s not the most apt metaphor this chilly year!) is the First Holy Communion Mass of our beloved young brothers and sisters. To receive the Lord Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar is something truly new and exciting for these children. But the Sacrament is as old and unchanged as the Paschal Mystery itself: Our Lord’s passion, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven.
The holy body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ these children will receive is no different from what you or I or Pope Francis or Saint Peter himself already many times received. But once they receive Him, they will be changed. They will be united in their fleshwith the Christ Jesus Himself, in His own body, in which He suffered, died, and rose from the dead, and rejoices already in the intimacy of the Father and the Holy Spirit. Now that’ssomething new!
But the very next day, when they still can wear their marvelous clothes that echo wedding garments and reveal their participation in the mystic union of the divine Bridegroom with His spotless Bride, they will receive…the very same Savior. Nothing new, no improvement. Will their enthusiasm, their devotion even already begin to wane?
Not if they know, not if we remind them that the sameness of God is what makes newness happen in them. How can we remind them of that? How can we teach the undying newness that is to be found in the everlasting unchanging One? How can I find a new way to express to you the same old necessity for the never-changing remedy? What will make this message new, and improved?Monsignor Smith