The son said in reply, “I will not,” but afterwards he changed his mind and went.
~ Matt 21.29
In today’s polarized culture, changing one’s mind is seen as a sign of weakness, not mature flexibility. We accuse politicians of flip-flopping and leaders of caving in to pressure; it may even unnerve us when a friend or family member reverses a long-held position. We seem to prefer that people adopt hard-and-fast perspectives and never, ever alter them. We operate this way in our own lives, too: we prescribe limits on what we will allow ourselves to think and do, and we wrap those prescriptions tightly in our clenched fists.
But then Jesus comes along and asks us to travel to places we never thought we’d go, or associate with people we feel are not “our kind.” Our reflexive response, like the first son in today’s Gospel, is to say no. Matthew doesn’t tell us why Son No. 1 changed his mind, only that he did. Perhaps his desire to please his father trumped his own fear or inertia. Perhaps he reflected on his father’s past goodness to him and decided that it merited his obedient trust. Whatever the reason, Son No. 1 did not balk at changing his mind; he knew that metanoia, that profound turning about of the soul, is not the same thing as inconsistency.
If our encounter with the message of the living God—through the Word, through the Eucharist, through our relationships with others—does not accomplish some kind of reorientation deep within us, we might need to pray for the grace to open our clenched fists and let go.
O God of wisdom and strength, Help me become the malleable clay in your skillful and shaping hands. Amen.
For today’s readings, click here.