Our Readiness to Change
We are created in the image and likeness of God, and God entrusted us with the gift of responsibility for creation. We have the power to either build or destroy. We have the power to decide the fate of the world in which we live and the fate of others.
One of the primary vocations in which we exercise freedom to care for creation and cooperate with God is marriage. As you who are married know, marriage is not without daily trials and difficulties. In marriage, each spouse is called to mature and develop—to become the person God truly intends the person to be. And through marriage, God tests a person in order to see who he really is. A very clear way God tries to find out who a person really is, is by testing his willingness to change. A letter from the book By Love Refined by Dr. Alice von Hildebrand illustrates this point:
The first time I met my husband, he was giving a talk to a group of friends in his modest apartment. His theme was “the readiness to change…” I can’t tell you the impression his lecture made on me. For the first time in my life, I discovered the key to moral and spiritual progress: the readiness to change.
But life was to teach me that having a key isn’t the same as being able to use it properly. In a sense, we all seem to be ‘old maids’—people who’ve never adapted ourselves to living with others. We have set ways and a horror of changing ourselves (along with a passion to change others). I know people who take insignificant details so seriously that a spoon placed in the wrong drawer causes an earthquake.
Even in marriage, most of us implicitly consider ‘our way’ to be the best way. When we’re challenged to change, our first reaction is often ‘That’s my business’ or ‘Leave me alone’ or ‘I’m a free person and I’ve got a right to do things as I choose.’ It’s strange how very, very difficult it is for us poor human beings to change even in the smallest things.
It is difficult for us to change for the better because readiness to change means fighting our own will. This is a great source of conflict in marriage. Much as we would like to be great lovers, we must acknowledge that we love our own will more. We love God—up to a point; we love our husband—up to a point. But our most dearly beloved usually is and remains our own will.
One thing alone brings people to the readiness to change: love. Love can melt the coldest heart, making it fluid and malleable. What a liberation from self-imprisonment to be able to go against our own wishes out of love! Love makes dying to my will sweet, though it may be that this sweetness is enjoyed only after a long struggle.
Your love for your husband is great, and so is his love for you. So I don’t doubt that you both will rise to the challenge of love and soon learn how always to be ready to change for your beloved.
With my fondest affections,
The reason Moses allowed for divorce was because people were not willing to change—their hearts were hard. Whether we are called to follow the vocation of marriage or not, each of us is called by God to change. Each of us is called to deny himself for the sake of others. Each of us is called to love not because it feels good for our ego, but because it is what God Himself does.
I would like to invite each of you to ask yourself: Am I really willing to change? Do I make an effort to love others, even when it means that I must deny my own will? In the Eucharist and Confession, Jesus is ready and willing to give us all the graces that are necessary to change and to love like He Loves. The question is: are we ready to accept His gifts, which will melt our hardened hearts?
Yours in Christ,
Readings for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Lectionary 140
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