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Center for Action and Contemplation
Radical Resilience
Radical Resilience

To Live Is to Change

Monday, January 1, 2024

New Year’s Day

In this New Year’s homily from 2020, Father Richard Rohr preached on the biblical call to change:

The Greek word for “repent” (metanoia) means to change your mind. I’d like to emphasize change, because that’s not something we humans as a species are attracted to. We’re much like animals in this regard. Animals are creatures of habit. Those of us with a dog or a cat know their behavior is predictable. If we change some daily routine, they’ll get upset. I’m afraid to say that we’re much the same. We like things the way we like things. And yet the first words out of Jesus’ mouth tell us that he’s come to give us a philosophy of change: “Repent,”—change your mind—“for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 3:2).

Psychologist Robert Wicks suggests part of resilience is making a decision to remain open to ongoing growth and change:

Each of us has a range of resilience (the ability to meet, learn from, and not be crushed by the challenges and stresses of life)…. Of even more import than the different resiliency ranges people have is their conscious decision to maximize the ways in which they can become as hardy as possible. They may not call this resilience, but it is their ability to be open to life’s experiences, and so to learn. [1]

Richard continues:

St. John Henry Newman (1801–1890) said, “Here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” [2] That’s a very different philosophy than most of us have. Our natural approach is to keep in cruise control. The way we do it is the way we do it, and any change is considered dangerous, heretical, and new. But here in this Gospel we were given a program of change and growth from the beginning. If we don’t grow, if we don’t change, we end up the same at 70 as we were at 17. We all know people like that, and we may even be one of them. Such people aren’t very fun to live with. They want to pick and win fights. It’s what a lot of politics is today. The important thing is not the truth or what’s good for the whole, but what’s good for the small part of which I’m a part.

If people refuse to change, what my mother used to call “bull-headedness,” the world will only get worse. We have to learn how to dialogue, how to forgive, and how to trust, and how to give people the benefit of the doubt. In the United States, our country has become very cynical about truth and love. We hear politicians take oaths to be fair and just leaders and we all know it doesn’t mean anything. We expect everybody to be for the truth of their group and their “kingdoms.” But Jesus tells us to change our minds and accept the kingdom of God, which is what’s good for the whole.

[1] Robert J. Wicks, Bounce: Living the Resilient Life, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2023), 5.

[2] John Henry Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, 6th ed. (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1989, 2015), 40.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Mind Does Not Like to Change, homily, January 1, 2020. Available as MP3 audio.

Image credit: Jenna Keiper, Keeping the Candle Lit (detail), New Mexico, photograph, used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.

Resilience requires endurance – we keep watch to keep the candle lit.

Story from Our Community:  

Two years ago, my 56-year-old son died from cancer. In his memory, I planted a tree outside my window. Afterwards, I was away for seven weeks in the hospital. During that time, there was no one to care for the recently planted tree. I came home to discover it had been stripped of leaves by deer. After some tending, it is now filling in with new leaves and looking beautiful again. The experience spoke to me of the resilience of faith. Faith can overcome and survive setback to reach new heights. —Carol O.

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