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For Everything a Season

There comes a time when criticism of the past is simply not enough. There comes a new moment in life when we must dedicate ourselves to creating the future. And that is hard, hard work.
At that moment we discover the difference between rabble-rousers and leaders, between critics and prophets, between malcontents in an organization and the monumentally committed.
Tearing down the Berlin Wall was one; going about the process of rebuilding a totally demoralized and disenfranchised people is entirely another. Desegregating educational systems by bussing children out of their neighborhoods was one thing; equalizing educational programs so that inner-city schools have the same kind of facilities and programs as the schools in the suburbs has been entirely another. Writing papers on the lay vocation was one thing; incorporating women and laity into the structures of the church has turned out to be a disheartening one. Proclaiming the demise of sexism was one thing; reshaping the patriarchal marriage turned out to be the formidable other. No doubt about it: revolution is the easy part. Rebuilding is the spiritual gift.
Rebuilding is one of the charisms of creation. This time, however, God does not do the recreating. We do. God simply sends us to try again with the very same kind of creatures that were used in the first creation. And therein lies the lesson. To rebuild means to do it with the very same people who corrupted a situation in the first place, if not debauching it themselves, at least by going along with the ride.
The obstacles to rebuilding, to renewing, to revitalizing a decadent system, then, are transparent ones. In the first place, we ourselves are products of the last system. Finding the openness of heart to imagine the possibility of a full gospel, a just world, an honest government, muddles the mind. We stew in the juices of the past and want change, but what we really want is “planned” change; we want revolution as long as it’s a “nice” revolution, or we demand a “new” world but not too new a world.

There is great spiritual merit in begin a rebuilder. Rebuilders take what other people only talk about and make it the next generation’s reality. They are people who pay with their lives to make an idea an actuality. They give up prestige and money and being the Peter Pans of the public arena for the long, hard struggle of turning our little world on its tiny little axle. They build a new world right in the heart of the old. They show us the world that the rest of the world does not want to see until, forced to see it, we can ignore it no longer.  
      —from For Everything a Season (Orbis Books), by Joan Chittister