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How do we change?

The mystery of death leading to new life

Looking out my window it seems as though the world is slowly, gently going to sleep. The gardens of spring and summer, with their bright array of blossoms and flowers, have once again been tilled in preparation for several months of rest. The trees, whose leaves we eagerly anticipated, and whose gorgeous spectrum of colors we have celebrated, are now largely bare of their shady canopies. They seem to have gone to sleep even as they stand proud against the chill and wind of late autumn. The world seems prepared to take its rest for a time. We learn early in our lives that this rest is not only necessary but also good. It is this time of slumber – of seeming death – that will enable the new life of spring. Without a time of hibernation, spring, and the radiant beauty of new life as we know it, would not be possible.

My family, like many families, has had to contend with these lessons of dying and rising in close succession. In early June we gathered to celebrate the life and legacy of my grandmother, Leotta. At the age of 97, after many years full of life and love, she had gone home to God. At the same time our family was eagerly anticipating the birth of new life, as my brother, Mark, and his wife, Michelle, awaited the birth of their daughter, Amy, just a short time later. The time between grandma’s death and Amy’s birth felt much the same as this autumn time. We know death will come; we also know there will be new life. It is a time of mixed emotions.

As a church, we enter into this mixture of emotions as we begin this month of November. One day, we celebrate All Saints; the next, All Souls. The liturgies that help us to begin the month of November also help us to be mindful of this process of dying and rising and our own participation in the paschal mystery. These times help us to remember that death is not an end, but a very mysterious beginning of something new and beautiful. At the same time we are reminded that living is not an end in itself; we are also called to our personal experiences of dying – so that we might rise anew. Our experience of the paschal mystery often reveals itself in our own daily struggle to let go of those things that keep us from becoming the people God calls us to be – those ways of being that prevent us from living life as God intends us to live. We are called to die to selfishness, insensitivity, greed, uncaring, racism, despair, bigotry and the many other ways of “un-living.” In letting go – dying – we also experience a rising to new life, the ongoing process of becoming more and more like Christ.

How will we be in the coming springtime?  How will we change and grow?  That is difficult to say with any certainty, but if we take seriously the lessons of this time of the year, we will find ourselves rising to new life. And so our journey in FAITH continues.