Change You, Change the World

This week's reflection is written by
Mr. Joseph McDaniel, OSFS, seminarian.

A person inclined to a disengaged and pessimistic outlook on the world would perhaps have some justification for such a perspective given our nation’s social and political climate. Important policy issues seem to be sitting endlessly at the traffic light, and dialogue between groups of disparate points of view seems to require the crossing of gulfs that no one really wants to bridge. When presented with this situation, the prospect of acting as an individual to enact real change seems to be a task akin to that of the tragic mythological character Sisyphus: endlessly rolling a stone up the hill only to watch it roll down again.

This would be a reasonable vantage point to hold, but it is not that of the Gospel. We believe not in a man or god who was fated to ascend and descend the mountain of human suffering endlessly. We believe in a man who was God and ascended the mountain of human suffering once and for all. The cross was carried to the top of the hill and did not come down again. The stone was not rolled up and down forever; instead, it was rolled away.

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The fact of faith that Jesus’ journey didn’t end on some wind-swept outcropping in Palestine, despite all appearances that it would, is what gives faith, hope, and the life of love to each of us today. Jesus’ own actions are a compelling reminder to us that each of the things that we do can make a difference in the world, even if we can’t quite see beyond the moment. In fact, they will make a difference; the question is, what difference will they make? If Jesus gives in to the naysayers and runs away, we are not here as people of faith today; he perseveres, and we share in his mission of building God’s kingdom here and now.

As a teacher, I often have to engage with students who are struggling to find meaning in their own lives, but I see many more who are already taking action to not only make their own lives meaningful, but to change the world. They are using theatre and music to promote a message of hope, they are raising over a hundred thousand dollars each year to support community organizations, they are lending their voices peacefully and courageously to important discussions in the public square at both the local and national level. They are witnessing wonderfully to our school’s theme this year, “Change You, Change the World.”

Francis de Sales once wrote that in order to change the world, we must begin with ourselves. The perspective we take towards ourselves and the collective life that we lead makes all the difference. While changing the whole world at first seems impossible, we can definitely shape the world in which we directly inhabit: the world of our inner self, our relationships, our work, our communities. Because everything is connected, to make a small change in our own mindset, to make someone’s day better, to tell the truth instead of lying, to sow peace instead of dissension in our conversation, is indeed to change the fabric of the whole world.

During Holy Week, as we commemorate how Christ lived out this message in his own life on the outskirts of Jerusalem 2000 years ago, may we witness to it in our homes, workplaces, and public spaces, here and now, and every day of our lives.