The notice on my digital calendar reminded me that we had a Parish Council meeting scheduled for tonight. Obviously, those plans have changed. Many, if not all of our plans have changed in these last several weeks. Our lives have all been turned upside down because of the pandemic. Who among us could have predicted that by mid-March we would enter in to such a lengthy period of quarantine? Then came the news of my resignation as the priest of All Saints. Now, as I approach new beginnings, in a new parish, in a new diocese, the people of All Saints will also be blessed with a new and fresh start for ministry, both Lay and Ordained. Change in any form is never easy. That’s why I prefer to accept change as a means for transformation, rather than as an obstacle that prevents personal comfort or preference. The spiritual truth that Jesus reveals over and over again is that new ways bring new life. Jesus is not only the Master of transformation; Jesus himself is transformation. Holy Transformation is what our Christian faith is founded upon. To help us reflection further on the spirituality of transformation, I offer the following. The reflection below comes from Spiritual Literacy by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. I pray that it will help to fill us all with the hope and promise of New Life.
“There’s a part of every living thing that wants to become itself,” writer Ellen Bass observes, “the tadpole into the frog, the chrysalis into a butterfly, a damaged human being into a whole one. That is spirituality.” It is also a capsule description of the holy grail of transformation.
The quest for wholeness is a global phenomenon. Individuals in all parts of the world are involved in inner work, trying to get in touch with soul, imagination, and creativity. Some are searching for a connection with the Sacred Source through contemplation, rituals, and retreats. Others are drawn to explore the spiritual dimensions of relationship.
Sam Keen, a freelance philosopher, looks at how this impulse toward renewal is reflected in the world’s religions: “The great metaphors from all spiritual traditions – grace, liberation, being born again, awakening from illusion – testify that it is possible to transcend the conditioning of the past and do a new thing,”
What we have been does not determine who we are. “One discovers that destiny can be directed,” French-American diarist Anais Nin writes, “that one does not have to live in bondage to the first wax imprint made on childhood sensibilities. Once the deforming mirror has been smashed, there is a possibility of wholeness.”
Essayist, Normandi Ellis talks about a friend who calls himself a “human becoming in the spirit of growth, change, and development that is part and parcel of this life.” We want to bring to the fore parts of ourselves that have been overlooked. Indeed, whenever we are involved in the process of personal reformation or renewal, we must face the shadow. As Andrew Harvey, a modern-day mystic, points out, “The very things we wish to avoid, neglect, and flee from turn out to be the prima materia from which all real growth comes.”
Be on the lookout for resources that will unlock your inner potential. Be on the lookout for imaginative experiences that will stop you in your tracks and turn you around.
One of the great examples of personal transformation is St. Paul. In Romans 12:2 he suggests, “Be transformed by the renewing of your minds.”
The African-American novelist Alice Walker challenges Christians with the following thought: “The transformation required of us is not simply to be ‘like’ Christ, but to be a Christ.” And that means, in the words of Protestant minister Samuel Miller, we need “to match our inward transformation with the magnitude of the world’s need.”
In the rigorous and true aphorism of our era, the personal must become the political. The wholeness we seek is not a private retreat but a project to ensoul the world. Or, as best-selling author Rabbi Harold Kushner concludes, “The ultimate goal is to transform the world into the kind of world God had in mind when God created it.”