When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him. (Mt 21:32)
Changing our minds is hard work, something that most of us do only reluctantly. Even when the truth stares us in the face, we resist. Perhaps we are afraid of losing something with which we are comfortable. Or we think that changing our minds might be interpreted as disloyalty to someone in power or a friend. Whatever the reason for our resistance, letting go and changing our minds in order to follow the Lord more closely and build his reign is a clear mandate in the gospel.
Today’s gospel portrays a community of Jewish leaders unwilling to change, even after seeing and experiencing the honesty and integrity of John the Baptist. When Jesus suggests that prostitutes and tax collectors are more willing to change than them, their resistance only deepens. To be compared to people at the bottom of the social ladder is an insult which they will not accept. Not only do they refuse to look at Jesus with open eyes and hearts, they begin to plot against him, not because of his ideas but because their power and standing in the community are threatened.
I must admit I have some sympathy for the chief priests and elders. After all, they had carved out a kind of treaty with the Romans that allowed them full access to the temple and the right to their own currency. Though conditions weren’t perfect, they could be much worse. But Jesus will hear of no excuses. While the resistance of the Jewish elders is understandable, it is unacceptable.
The same is true for us. All of us have reasons not to change. We have lived faithful catholic lives. We have followed the commandments and tried to live the beatitudes, but the Lord often demands more. Perhaps we have been hurt by a colleague, a friend, even a spouse and we refuse to believe that they can and have changed. We avoid them, speak dismissively of their good works or smirk at their efforts to change. The problem is ours, not theirs, especially if they have discovered a way to follow Christ which we are resisting, not because their ideas lack value, but because we do not trust them as persons.
The question all must ask is simple but difficult. What must we do to advance the message of salvation? How can we be instruments of peace so that others can discover the face of Christ? In today’s second reading Paul tells us how Jesus did this. “He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness;… he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Perhaps we could all do with a dose of humility and obedience, a willingness to change our minds for the sake of God’s reign.