By Bill Dodds | Catholic News Service
For one year, long ago, my four siblings and I were all in grade school at the same time.
Once, we were all teenagers together.
Now, we're all in our 60s. When we get together, which is always fun, we spend a bit a time playing "remember when?" and "can you believe how much (fill in the blank) has changed?"
Remember the house in Des Moines and St. Augustin's (yes, spelled that way) Grade School? The neighborhood in Omaha and St. Cecilia's Grade School? Seattle when we all arrived in 1964?
And can you believe how much the city has changed in recent years because of high-tech corporations now making their headquarters here?
I suppose it's human nature to get locked into a certain time period, or cost or way of doing things. To think "this is the way it was and so this is the way it's supposed to be."
This is the way it will always be.
You'd think we'd learn. (Not just my siblings and I. All humanity.) Learn what?
It can seem the only thing that never changes is there's always change.
But, that's not true.
If the five of us trace a line through our own lives and the journey we've taken as a family, one thing hasn't changed. One thing will never change. Not in this world. Not in the next.
God doesn't change. God's love for us doesn't change.
Eternal is always eternal. All-knowing is always all-knowing. All-loving is always all-loving. Forever and ever. (Can I get an "Amen!"?)
As grade schoolers, teens and young adults, we knew that. We believed that. It was just the way it was.
What we didn't know, what we've come to realize at this point in our lives and are so grateful to discover, is through all of life's ups and down, greatest joys and deepest sorrows, God is with us. Right here, right now.
And God is with me.
All his love, all his mercy, all Jesus did through his passion and death, is for me. Singular. For us, as siblings. For our children and grandchildren. For every single person who has ever lived or will live.
It's a comforting thought as a new year begins. A year that, no doubt, will bring its share of changes. Even as, thanks be to God, the One remains the same.
On the other hand, fortunately, we can and do change. Heart, mind and soul. In the words of Blessed John Henry Newman, "To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often."
What we say and do that's hurting and harmful, sinful and stupid, can -- by our efforts through the grace of God -- decrease. We can become better; we can, throughout our lives, move toward best.
How? Two tips.
The first, from Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, focuses on joy:
"You will never be happy if your happiness depends on getting solely what you want. Change the focus. Get a new center. Will what God wills, and your joy no man shall take from you."
And the second, from St. Faustina, shows how to invite the unchangeable into our lives so that we can change:
"You, my Lord God, cannot change. You are always the same. Heaven can change, as well as everything that is created; but you, Lord, are ever the same and will endure forever. So come as you like and when you like."
Bill Dodds and his late wife, Monica, were the founders of the Friends of St. John the Caregiver (www.FSJC.org). He can be contacted at [email protected].[[In-content Ad]]