People Can (and do) Change

Let’s be honest: We’ve all been frustrated with someone, and in a fit of hopelessness we declare with all certainty that they will never change!

But it’s not just other people. We all have qualities, habits or even addictions that we’d like (or even crave) to change, but in similar moments of hopeless despair, we tell ourselves, “I’ll never change”.

I think it’s time to challenge those ideas. If you ask a Christian why Jesus came, was born, died and rose again, they will say various things about His coming to save us. And while different Christians describe the salvation Jesus brings in different ways, all of those ideas rest on one shared assumption: people can change. It’s the assumption that God Himself has, and why He has provided the path of salvation that He has.

Christians begin their life in Christ by the biggest change of all: we die in the baptismal waters in order to rise again as a new creation in Him. We are sealed in Chrismation by the Gift of the Holy Spirit, Whose power and authority the new Christian is empowered to live by. And we change from being fed on merely earthly food and begin to be fed as well on the Heavenly Bread, the Eternal Life-giving gift of Holy Communion. And when we have forgotten who we are and live as people who have not changed, when we have acted in ways contradictory to this New Life, the Church calls us to Holy Confession, properly called the “Mystery of Repentance,” which is a fancy way of saying the miraculous event of Holy Change.

For those who have chosen to follow the path of Great Lent, the whole purpose has been to effect change in us. Change from our self-focused priorities. Change from our stupid dependence on earthly comforts instead of heavenly joys. Change from hiding from God to devotion to God.

Maybe thus far we’ve seen great progress and proof that we can change. Or maybe we’ve failed and not succeeded in our intended changes. Most probably, we’ve experienced both. When we’ve experienced failure, I would guess that somewhere deep within that failure was a simple thought: I can’t change.

If we can accept—once and for all—that we can change, then change will at least be achievable and worth fighting for. We disagree with none other than God Himself if we hold to our inability to change, so maybe it’s time we change our minds on the issue.

This Sunday, the last of Great Lent, the Church holds up for us the example of St. Mary of Egypt, the most-documented of all stories of change. Thanks to those who recorded the events of her life as she recounted them a millennium and a half ago. Through her life, we see a person go from being the worst of the worst of human existence to the best of the best. In preparation for this Sunday’s commemoration, we will hear her story told in full during tonight’s Small Compline with the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete. Her story is inspiring as all success stories are. They tell us what is possible for us.

The change we want is available. God sent Jesus to die and rise again to powerfully show us that He has made the way of change open to us. This road of change has been traveled by Christians from the day Christ was born until today. Those who were formerly murderers, rapists, serial liars, thieves, alcoholics and addicts of all varieties, and those held by any and all sins have found the freedom that comes from the change that is not only possible but waiting for us.

People can change.

We can change.