Seasonally, we are in the midst of transition, and it’s easy to notice change all around us as we move from autumn to winter. We’ve seen the leaves turn colors and now trees grow bare as leaves let go of their hold on the trees and fly away. The daylight has changed, and so darkness falls earlier and earlier each day. And the temperature has changed – it’s freezing outside now! The warm glowing days of fall are no longer.
We are nearing the end of the Church year, too, and our readings are helping us to make this transition. In a couple of weeks we’ll have the feast of Christ the King, and then the Sunday after that, November 30th, is the first Sunday of Advent and the dawning of a whole new church year. Until then we’ll hear, on and off, about the end times. During the week we’ll have some readings from the Book of Revelation and some Gospel passages that encourage being prepared. Our Second Reading from this Sunday reminds us to “stay awake and sober” as we await the coming of Christ and whatever changes are afoot.
Our Church year, our seasons, and our life circumstances are always in a state of flux. Sometimes change is so subtle that we are not aware of it, but at other times we experience immense, sweeping changes that may make us feel unsteady or disoriented. Coming to college can be such a change. All of you who were brand new students this fall are, hopefully, beginning to feel at home on campus. However, the memory of that transition might still be pretty fresh in your minds. I just moved to a new community house a couple of months ago, and I still feel a little perplexed as I settle in. Throughout life we all deal with loss and change, growth and transition. Some of the changes are difficult and come with grief. Some are good changes but still challenge us as we try to settle in. And some changes are hard to peg as good or bad – they just are. Nothing ever stays the same. Life always beckons us to something new. In order to follow God’s call to constant renewal and growth, we respond with trust as best we can. We take risks and we change.
A few years ago a student told me that I was “the Queen of Transition” because I talked about transition all the time. She wasn’t wrong, although I was not aware of how much I brought it up. At that time I was green in campus ministry and still adjusting to this new ministry. Also, I was preparing for final profession, not a change that was life-altering, but still a big one. All through my religious formation I had dealt with change after change after change. So, yeah, I may have been the Queen of Transition. I would often pray with Revelation 21:5: “See, I am making all things new.” I would, with varying degrees of forcefulness or whining, reply to God, “Well, stop it! Stop making all things new and just leave some things the same!” However, the reality is that time marches on, and over and over again, all things are made new. As followers of Christ trying to live the spiritual life well, how do we transition gracefully, and does our faith have anything to offer us during times of change?
There are some things that can help us through periods of transition, and as the Queen of Transition, I feel that I can share them with you. From the first letter to the Thessalonians, we learn to stay awake and sober (5:1-6). Although it sounds like a direct message to those college students who may skip classes to sleep or party just a little too hard, I think it really means that all of us should remain alert and present to life’s circumstances. During times of change, it can be very helpful to acknowledge thoughts and feelings surrounding the change. Some people retreat to quiet places to reflect, some journal, some talk it out with a trusted friend, minister, or mentor – and some people do all of the above. Sometimes, for me, it can be helpful to call to mind other times of transition that I have already weathered and reflect on how God was present to me during those times. Doing so helps me to remember how God is here in the present challenge as God has always been in the past. It can also be helpful to be intentional about maintaining routines and schedules in order to have some sense of normalcy during periods of change. I would advise all of us to eat well, exercise, get some rest, and go to Mass. Soon the new circumstances will become ordinary, and you’ll be used to things again. In the meantime, be gentle with yourself. God is gentle with you, so show yourself the same courtesy. And that brings me to prayer. It is so helpful to keep praying, especially in the midst of big sweeping changes. God is always present, walking with us – or carrying us. Especially during hard times, it’s okay to go ahead and cling to God, who, among so much else, is a rock, a fortress, a deliverer (Ps 18:2). When the winds of change are blowing all around you, find the shelter of God and curl up there, allowing God, who loves you, to care for you.
Whether you’re in the midst of life changes or simply noticing the changes going on at this point in the year, I hope you feel God’s presence with you as things are made new. I’ll leave you with a quote from my community’s founder, Blessed Jean Martin Moye. This quote always brings me great comfort:
God knows all your needs since God knows everything;
God can provide for them since God is all-powerful;
God wills to do so, since . . . God loves us as children. What could you be troubled about?
By Sister Leslie Keener, a Sister of Divine Providence of Kentucky and campus minister at the University of Cincinnati through St. Monica-St. George Parish Newman Center