Put on the mind of Christ
In the second reading today Paul tells us not to model ourselves on the behaviour of the world around us but to let our behaviour change, modelled on our new mind. What is the mind that Paul is talking about? The mind of Christ. It is a similar discussion to the one that we hear in the Gospel today. Jesus urging Peter to develop the mind of God; not to follow the mind of man. What is the mind of Christ as opposed to the mind of your average man and woman? Answer that and you are on the way to discovering the heart of Christianity: knowing the mind of Christ. The first reading from the book of Jeremiah gives us some clues already – it prefigures what we will discover about Christ. For Jeremiah it meant speaking out in a way that brought him personal insult and derision and yet at the same time created a burning desire to speak with a fire burning in his heart that had been planted by God.
So the Scriptures tell us that to follow Christ is to have a new mind. That’s true isn’t it? One of the key calls to the Christian, and a word we find in the Gospels again and again is metanoia. Meta, meaning ‘after’ or beyond and nous, meaning ‘mind’. So the word means going beyond your mind; changing your mind; I guess it could mean to be out of your mind. What is it that Christ does that takes us out of our mind? We often talk in our liturgy, and in our popular devotion, about Christ redeeming us or of our being redeemed by Christ. Redeeming means to buy back or to gain, or regain something. Christ redeems humanity we say. That is, Christ gains back humanity for us. What does it mean to gain back humanity? It means that wherever humanity is being overlooked, wherever humanity is degraded, wherever humanity is suffering, wherever humanity is dying, wherever humanity is being violated, exploited or denied, Christ is there. Christ is the one who will not let humanity go. He reveals to us that God, the creator, has a loving and eternal intention for each and every human person. When we dare to take out eye off humanity, when we fall into despair and hopelessness about our own lives, he is there looking us in the eye – not from the seat of judgement, but from the cross – from the place where human beings tried to kill his humanity. From the cross then Christ gives us a new mind.
And when we have been captured by that new mind we cannot see the world in the same way. To put on Christ, as we claim we do at our baptism, means that our minds are also shaped by the Christ who draws us back to humanity – our own and that of every one of our fellow human beings. So our new Christ-mind calls us to stand with humanity and to call out and to cry out and to stand up whenever and wherever we see humanity degraded, violated, exploited, suffering and dying. And our new mind in Christ also draws us beyond the eyes of the one who looks to us from the cross to the eyes of the one who greets us on Easter Sunday morning. And the one who greets us, changes our behaviour. For we cannot live now without the hope of resurrection for all of humanity.
As many of you know, this week I celebrated my thirtieth anniversary of priesthood. I was touched by the many tributes that you made to me in the online anniversary book that you somehow planned without me knowing. The thing that struck me most as I savoured the pages of that book was the many stories of how our lives have crossed, particularly when Christ’s call to be converted to being truly human has called you and me to model our lives on the mind of Christ. Theses have been times of illness, times of suffering, or perhaps times of misunderstanding a family member, a neighbour, a work colleague. There have been life and death situations when together we have sat and looked for the mind of Christ – the fully human and always hope-filled future that we know we are called for. And the journey continues. We continue together to look for the mind of Christ, and our new mind, so that we can be true to ourselves and to the created world and humanity of which we are apart.
My prayer as we gather this Sunday, and as we move forward together in faith, is that we will continue to grow in the knowledge and love of Christ who takes us out of our minds and brings us closer to the shared humanity created by the God who promises us good things and a future.