Change and Resistance
8th Sunday in Ordinary time (B)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

In some cultures, it is considered good manners for a visitor to leave his shoes or sandals outside the door before he enters the house. It is a sign of respect. It has become a habit to the extent that an elderly woman who visited her daughter in the city absent-mindedly took off her shoes when she boarded the bus. Bye-bye shoes.

Action starter: What do you have to change now?

Old and new sometimes do not mix too well. In a new environment, some habits have to be abandoned. New ideas bring in new practices. That may be the reason why in the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus was speaking of not using new fabric to patch an older one. It could tear the older fabric when it shrinks. Change has to be managed well. People generally resist change when it is introduced.

One company that introduced a new payroll system by way of using the ATM card had to deal with initial resistance. In one school, teachers were introduced to a faster way of computing grades through a ready-made computer program. Although it made the work faster and easier, there was also resistance. Teachers clung to the old manual computation, which was tedious but more familiar.

If persons are resistant to change in ordinary matters, such as new procedures and new technologies, how much more are people resistant to change in personal attitudes, in values, in beliefs and convictions. People are resistant to abandoning harmful habits. For example, smokers are very hard to convince to abandon the smoking habit. No amount of logical argument or graphic pictures of cancer victims can convince a smoker to quit. He has to find in himself a very good reason why he should quit. The same goes for drug addicts and alcoholics.

Sometimes a simple change has a big social effect. In one village, social life is provided by the village well. People go to the well not just to draw water, but also to talk and to exchange news. When water was delivered to houses by the new technology of pipes, then the village lost a precious locus of social life. Sometimes two values can be at odds, such as the need for efficient delivery of water and the need for social interaction.

What criterion then should be employed to justify change? The scientific explanation for adopting change is that the specie that adapts to its environment is the one that survives. Change is not just for change’s sake. Change is at the service of life.

For Jesus, change is for fuller life. He was at odds with the Pharisees because of his stand about the law. The law is made for man, not man for the law. The message of Jesus was something new for His audience and some found it hard to swallow. Imagine forgiving your enemies when you were raised to take an eye for an eye. Or to call God “Papa” as if one could be that intimate with the One who is so Transcendent. Allowing the person and the message of Jesus into our life leads to change. This change is also called “conversion.”

The change that matters is the change that leads to fuller life.