Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

How do you change people’s minds when they refuse to get vaccinated because they think the whole pandemic has been politically driven? How do you change minds about the election outcome? How do you change the mind of someone who chooses to think with blinders on? Or in ignorance of the “facts?” Our minds are shaped by our experiences at home, with family, friends, at our jobs. In the end, how we were educated and what we choose to read shapes our thinking process.

In the gospel, Jesus says shockingly that prostitutes and tax collectors will be entering the Kingdom BEFORE the educated religious leaders!! Jesus says so because he reminds these intelligent individuals that they never “changed their minds” even after seeing all that John the Baptist had done in the desert. The sinners had minds that were able to be changed. Remember, Jesus was speaking to educated, intelligent men.

How do we change the minds of people who seem so ignorant, uneducated, unenlightened? We begin with our own very selves and our own very minds. Are our ways of seeing the world filtered solely through certain lenses that have clear biases? Are we blind to our condescending attitudes toward people who don’t share our political leanings?

I was talking with someone recently, a highly educated and thoughtful person of faith, who expressed sadness that he can’t talk freely about really anything because he will be labeled in horrible terms by so called enlightened people who consider themselves “liberal?” Would you be surprised that this individual would consider themselves liberal, also? This individual “changed their minds” because their minds are able to “see” the hypocrisy of their own worlds.

We CANNOT change anyone else’s mind but our own FIRST!!! I know that my own world is small given the people who inhabit it. I’m surrounded largely by like-minded people. When my attitudes are shaped almost exclusively by this tight group, my world and vision become myopic. The challenge I/we have is to search through other perspectives, putting ourselves in other people’s lives. Walk in the shoes of a laborer who doesn’t make enough money; the person of a different race; the person who lives in a neighborhood with no good schools; the pregnant woman with no support ; the unborn child; the person who has truly hateful beliefs; the undocumented person landscaping in a wealthy neighborhood; the one who has no insurance.

Jesus was speaking with educated and enlightened people whose minds were closed. It seems that those the well connected world sees as deficient, Christ sees as ripe for conversion of heart. Why did Jesus seem to like being around these outcasts? Perhaps because they were more open and sincere than the others.

Fr. Frank