An Altared Life
Published on November 26-27, 2011 in the Parish Bulletin of Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
We hear that a lot from folks in the South, especially after an innovative idea is presented. It is their preferred ammunition in many an argument, the card in their deck that trumps any case for change.
At the heart of what these folks endorse as ‘common sense’ are two assumptions: first, that something is not broken; and second, that change would not do any good. Something might look ‘all put together’ on the outside, but inside it could be ‘all broken up.’ We can never be sure until we have examined it closely, until we have checked it completely. It is true that sometimes change can do more harm than good; but, just because something is proven to be good doesn’t mean that anything else that is unproven cannot be better.
Such common sense might work well in the South, but, it cannot take the place of conscience in a Christian. At the heart of what we believers call conscience are two truths: first, that all humanity is broken; and second, that change would do us a whole lot of good.
We might look ‘all put together’ but the pieces of our lives are hardly intact. Only a fool would believe that he is untouched by evil, that he is unburdened by the weight of the world. There is a brokenness in our humanity that needs to be mended. We realize this to be true when we examine our conscience, when we identify those parts of our selves that are disconnected from grace. No less than St. Paul acknowledged this when he said, “I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want” (Rm. 7:19).
None of us wants this woundedness to be left unhealed. None of us has the desire for this brokenness to remain unmended. But, the only condition by which this cheerless condition can be changed is to let ourselves be changed. Blessed John Henry Newman tells us that “in a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often” (cf. An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, ch. 1, sec. 1, part 7). But, this is not change for the sake of change; this is change for the sake of Christ.
For us Christians, change is not just about having an altered life; it is about having an ‘altar-ed’ life. Our goal is not to move away from God’s altar, but to draw closer to it. It is there that we find the Lamb of God who is “broken but not divided, ever eaten but never consumed, [who] sanctifies those who partake of Him” (cf. “Fraction of the Holy Bread” in The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom). It is by His brokenness that we are mended; it is by His wounds that we are healed (cf. 2 Pt. 2:24).
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Then again, we are ‘broke’ and only Christ can get us mended. But, first, we ourselves have got to change.