We Don’t Have the Truth. The Truth Has Us.

“For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him… and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him” (Mt 21:32).  Today, we’re going to talk about changing our minds, particularly, admitting that we’ve been wrong, which is hard for us to do.

Years ago in New Jersey, I was visiting some distant relatives, a wonderful family, and I was shocked by how much they argued: They would cut each other off, then laugh, shout, and were always trying to be right.  I realized: My family used to be like that.  Yet, ever since we started following Jesus, we were interested in truth.  During intense conversations, my brothers and I will say, ‘I didn’t realize that.  Okay, I change my opinion,’ or, ‘Based on what you said, let me modify my position,’ or if one of us says, ‘What you just said isn’t logical,’ the other will say, ‘Right.  Let me retract that.’

The spiritual goal for today is that we not worry about admitting when we’re wrong, because we just follow truth wherever it leads us.

The Gospel begins, “Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: ‘What do you think?  A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.”  He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went.  The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I am going, sir”; but he did not go.  Which of the two did the will of his father?’” (Mt 21:28-30).  The first son was wrong in his disobedience towards his father.  But, more importantly, did he adapt himself to the truth?  Yes.  That’s being humble.  God recognizes that we don’t always get things right at the beginning, and sometimes we don’t know the truth, but He wants to know if we’ll change our minds and do His will once we know it.  On the other hand, we could say that the second son thinks he’s right by saying the right thing, but doesn’t follow the truth he knows.

Let me give you two examples of where I’ve changed, where I’ve been ‘wrong.’  Actually, I can’t think of any.  Just kidding.  On Mar. 28, 2021, I quoted the Canadian bishops on the morality of which COVID vaccines we should prefer, but I only quoted the first half of their instruction because I thought that some people would only follow the part of the teaching that they like and ignore the unpopular part, so I was trying to get people to wrestle with the substance of the teaching.  I was wrong not to follow up right away and be clearer about the goal of the homily.

And an area in which I’ve made a big change in my life is my tone when it comes to homilies on hot button issues like abortion, homosexuality, transgenderism.  I realized I had to change last Spring.  So, for example, on May 14, 2023 the homily was about the morality of transgender surgery for children, and, because I don’t like bad ideas, I just take out my intellectual machine gun and shoot them down.  When I realized that most people are motivated by positive arguments, on June 25, 2023 the homily again about transgenderism gave eight positive examples of how the truth sets us free.  This is a big change for me!  It’s like parents admitting that they need to change their style of parenting, or spouses saying they have to change the way they love.

Pope Benedict XVI said, “Indeed, we cannot say ‘I have the truth,’ but the truth has us” (Last Testament, 241).  It’s not about being right or wrong.  It’s about letting truth guide us.

“Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.  For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him’” (Mt 21:31-32).  The tax collectors and prostitutes did horrible things but changed their minds when they heard the hard preaching of St. John the Baptist.  Remember?  He told them to change their ways before they go to hell.

St. John Henry Newman said, “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often” (An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, Chapter 1, Section 1, Part 7).  He had a conversion to God when he was 15, then moved from Evangelicalism to a more intellectual form of Christianity in university, then to a study of the Church fathers, and then to the Catholic Church when he was 44.  We want to be able to do the same thing: ‘Given the evidence, given what Jesus teaches, let me change my mind.’

I just admitted one area in which I was wrong and one way I’ve made a significant change in my life, so let me propose two ways we can adapt ourselves to truth:

1) Last year, we mentioned how so few people show up for the Masses around Christmas, even though they are holy days of obligation.  Therefore, let’s remind ourselves this Christmas, it’s a grave obligation for us Catholics to go on Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023 which is the fourth Sunday of Advent, then the next day, Monday, Dec. 25, 2023  Christmas.  Similarly, we need to go to Mass on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023 and the next day, Monday, Jan. 1, 2024 the solemnity of Mary’s motherhood.  You can also see the new Mass times which mean I can sleep in, I mean, we can sleep in.  To miss any of these Masses through our own fault is a mortal sin, so let’s not do that!

2) As mentioned before, in order to have our children baptized or get married or receive Confirmation here, we need to commit to this parish, because parish hopping doesn’t help us grow spiritually, and we have to show this commitment by going to Mass every week and using envelopes.  Now, when Annie Ma, who’s in charge of Baptisms, or I, ask, ‘Do you go to Mass every Sunday here?’ just tell the truth.  If you’re not going weekly, just say, ‘Yeah, I’ve been struggling, but I’m going to go every Sunday from now on.’  Some time ago, there was a couple whom we challenged, and, at first, we heard the usual excuses, but, once they started to come weekly, they kept on doing it!  That’s the point of the three-month waiting period: It shows you that you can do it!

In addition, once the Baptism or Confirmation is over, we should still keep on coming!  I think maybe half of the families who have Baptisms here stop going once the Baptism is over.  Now, here’s the thing: If we did that, forget about the past mistakes, go to Confession, and recommit now.  Let’s focus on changing for improvement!

For First Communion and Gr. 7 Confirmation, most children don’t even come back the next weekend.  In spite of that fact, here’s our chance to improve.  Once we know the truth, we say, ‘From now on, I’m going!’  And the same rules apply if you want me to sign a form saying that you’re spiritually ready to be a godparent.

Last point: If we hate admitting that we’re wrong, there’s a secret to never being wrong.  You know what it is?  Just agree with everything Jesus teaches, and your moral and spiritual opinions will always be perfect.  Furthermore, if you follow everything He teaches, you’ll never have to admit you’re wrong!  Seriously speaking, it’s not about being right or wrong, or having the truth; it’s about the truth having us.

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