Flash

"THE SHEMA AND THE HUMAN MIND" 8/22/11

In his seminal “Redemption Song,” Bob Marley sings, ‘Emancipate yourself from mental slavery; none but ourselves can free our minds.”  Bob is right but he is missing something important about how our minds are truly freed.  One of the most attractive aspects of music/lyrics for me is when an artist shares their vulnerability (similar to when we give testimonies about our past failures and mistakes) and writes what is really on their minds, this is why I enjoy Dylan, Springsteen, Lennon, for example, Courtney Love’s song “Doll Parts,” opens up for us a window into her life as she shares what is on her mind; the things she desires, lives, suffers:
I want to be the girl with the most cake
I love him so much it just turns to hate
I fake it so real, I am beyond fake
Someday you will ache like I ache
In the 1980’s, while her husband was president of the United States, Nancy Reagan spearheaded a campaign called “A War on Drugs.”  One of the most powerful and effective tools of the campaign was a TV commercial where an actress holds up a chicken egg and says, “This is your brain,” then she cracks open the egg and drops it into a frying pan and says, “This is your brain on drugs,” the eggs fries and the point is made.
As a young man Albert Einstein did not believe in a personal God, but he did believe that God created the universe and is quoted as saying, “I want to know how God created this world, I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element.  I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details.”  For more on this Google “Famous Scientists who believed in God.”
Einstein wanted to know what God was thinking, what was on God’s mind.  This is an excellent pursuit because what ever God is “thinking” is exactly what we want to do, we can never be wrong if we follow God’s “thoughts,” his plan, purpose, and commands. As Christians we know that God’s thoughts have been fully and perfectly revealed in the divine person of Jesus Christ and proclaimed and guarded by his Church in Tradition and Scripture.  We know that because God is omniscient, “all knowing,” God does not “think” he “knows.”
Before entering into our hearts, God’s Word is read or proclaimed aloud and therefore is being processed through our minds, as St. Paul reminds the Roman Church, “Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the Word of God.”  Romans 10:17.  In order to receive God’s revelation, God’s Word, our minds must be functioning correctly, they must be open to truth, correction, knowledge, drug/alcohol free, not filled with the selfishness and filth of the world because then our minds will simply be “brainwashed” by whatever is dominating them at the time.
Yes, the faculties of our minds such as perception, language, reasoning, and emotion are beautiful and powerful but can also be flawed with the weaknesses of the self, sin, and the lies and attractions of the world.  Our minds can also be confused and altered by prescription and illegal drugs, alcohol, stress, and the trauma of experience like death/sexual and verbal abuse/health issues/accidents, philosophies not open to truth.   Just in this one day, take a moment to look back to all the “thoughts” that ran through your mind.
When we sit back and look at what really is on our minds and how often these things are present to us, the truth can be shocking and eye opening. For those us who BM (Before Metanoia) drank too many Stoli rocks/Coronas/Whatever, or smoked to much bud and snorted too many lines, think back to the foolish things that came into your mind when you were drinking or high.  Oh yeah, got it.  Thank you Jesus for not calling me to judgment day in that state of mind.
Those who have the expertise to know and study such things believe that the average human mind processes fifty to seventy thousand thoughts a day.  That’s a lot.  To prepare our hearts and minds to receive the Word of God, begin to ask yourself these kinds of questions: on a daily basis how many of my thoughts are about the daily routines of life, things are necessary to think about in order to survive is this society; work, family, home life, etc?  How many of our thoughts are encouraging others as opposed to tearing them down?  How many bring to your life a sense of fear as opposed to peace?
How many focus on the “me” as opposed to others (family, friends, ministry, God)?   How many are Holy Spirit led and how many are evil spirit led?  In the same vein in which Bob Dylan sang, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” we do not need Dr. Phil, Carl Jung, or a doctorate in psychology, to know that our minds are at the same time powerful and fragile, they can be astute yet vulnerable, and that what comes into are minds has a direct effect on our actions and hearts.  We know this from personal experience, we know all the good/bad/crazy/wrong/holy/sinful thoughts that have come into our minds and what we did with them.
For example, have you ever met or tried to have a conversation with an “unreasonable” person?  What do we mean when we say things like, “I can’t talk to him/her anymore, they just do not make any sense, they will not listen to reason?”  We are saying we cannot have a dialogue/conversation with them because their minds are not functioning correctly, their “state of mind” is not open to truth or counsel or common sense because they have been dramatically altered by lies/pride/stubbornness/selfishness or have been betrayed/trapped/led astray through an addiction to alcohol and drugs like meth, cocaine, marijuana, and many types of prescription drugs.
Each one of us has had many such experiences.  For example as Catholics, when we speak to other Christians about our faith, it always seems that their minds are closed, not open to truth, and so many simply do not believe us when we tell them the truth that we do not worship saints, statues, or the Virgin Mary.  That we do not believe we can be saved through our good works but that just as the bible reveals in Ephesians 2:8-9; salvation is a gift that comes through faith in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ only, and our “goods works” are simply what happens to a person when they have a metanoia and surrender their lives to Jesus, just as the next verse teaches, “For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.” Ephesians 2:10
Why is a conversation with another Christian about the truth of the Catholic faith so frustrating and seemingly futile? (The Spirit is always at work even in our perceived failures and closed doors and minds).   Because their minds have heard a lie about the Catholic faith over and over again.  When a pastor or Sunday school teacher, month after month, year after year says to their Church, “Catholics are not Christians, they are not saved because they have idols in their Churches, they pray to the Virgin Mary like she is God, we need to convert them,” those who are listening are having their minds formed by his thoughts and teachings.
When the human minds hear such things over and over again, the information is processed and then after a period of time the information no longer is information but becomes their “truth” because now it has passed from the mind to the heart. When “information” that is actually a lie, goes from the mind and into the heart, this is where sin occurs and this is why it is so hard to have an honest conversation with other Christians about our Catholic faith, namely because a lie has become their truth.
In my little world, along with the many personal examples I have about talking to other Christians about my love for Jesus, the Word, and my Catholic faith, and not being believed, one of the most shocking examples of having a conversation with a person who’s mind was not functioning correctly happened a few years ago when a woman who I knew from Church asked to meet with me privately and upon doing so she accused me of putting a listening device in her purse so I could monitor her conversations at home.
What the heck!!  How does a person deal with something so crazy it’s beyond science fiction?  Where did she think I got the listening device from?  Radio shack or a Russian spy friend?  I knew this woman was infatuated with me and I had discreetly tried to ignore it but this was so out of touch with reality that I had to immediately call another person into my office to listen to what she was saying.  There was no change, her mind believed a lie and that was it.  Our minds and what is on them is soooo important.  Pray and continue to prepare yours for the power of Jesus’ Word.
The point I hope to make is this, a point that I believe the Word will reveal, is that we need a clear/open/spiritually healthy mind as a stepping stone in order to be able to know, love, and serve Jesus. Yes, to walk in the Father’s vineyard, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we need an open and clear mind that is being influenced by a well formed conscience, which enables a person to receive the Truth in Word and Church teaching.
If all that is on our minds is sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, then that’s exactly where our hearts will be, we will be serving mammon not God, and that is what we will reap on Judgment Day.  If all that is ever on our minds is money, power, slander, revenge, and jealousy, then that is where our hearts will be, and we will reap that eternal harvest. If our minds are continually distorted by atheistic philosophy professors or our own personal vices then our minds will not be able to receive the Truth and grace that God wants our minds to receive in order cleanse our hearts.  Why am I even bringing this up, these things about the mind and heart and Truth?  Because of what Jesus added to the Shema.  What is the Shema?  As always, let’s go to the Word!!
As a Jewish man, Jesus was taught and lived the Jewish religion and culture.  For many around the world today, culture and religion have been separated; for example here in the United States we live as Christians in a secular society.  Personally, we can and do live in a manner in which faith dominates our very existence but the truth is that the society we live in does not have the same values and morals about the things we treasure like: faith in God, marriage, life from conception until natural death, prayer in public schools and places, etc.
In the ancient Jewish world it was not this way, their religion was their culture, religion/faith permeated their entire existence from food to clothing to worship.  Faith in the one true God was everything, the law of the land was the Law of God.  For our founding father’s, faith was a guiding light and was reflected in much of their culture and society in a way that is no longer true today.   An example of how faith and culture are combined can be still be seen in many Arab countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia, where their faith in Allah literally dominates every dimension of their lives: what they eat, how they dress, their laws, and of course their daily prayer lives and worship.
So for Jesus, again, as a faithful Jewish man, faith, the Law, prayer and worship were at the center of his life.  At the age of five, Jesus would have begun to learn the Law, the Five Books of Moses, collectively known as the Torah, beginning with the purity laws in the Book of Leviticus.  The word “unclean” does not even appear in the Book of Exodus but in Leviticus it is written over one hundred and ten times.  So the first thing about God and faith that a Jewish boy had to learn early on was how a person is to approach the majesty of God, namely, the God they worshiped, Yahweh, must always be approached with purity/cleanliness.
Knowing that purity/cleanliness was one of the first parts of the Jewish faith and Law that Jesus would have learned and lived, brings us as Christians a deeper appreciation and understanding of the importance of what Jesus personally taught his own mathetes about the true manner in which a person becomes unclean/impure/defiled, namely that impurity  is not from ritual washings or from the kinds of food they ate but from the heart.  This was a new teaching that put Jesus in direct opposition with those in authority in Israel, the scribes, priests, and Pharisees, as the Word reveals:
“When he got home away from the crowd his disciples (mathetes) questioned him about the parable.  He said to them, are even you likewise without understanding?  Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from the outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?  Thus he declared all food clean.  But what comes out of a person that is what defiles.  From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.  All these evils come from within and they defile.” Mark 7:17-22.  Amen to the Blood of the Father’s Lamb.
The bible teaches us that Jesus did not come to change the Jewish Law but to fulfill it and the correcting and explaining of the Law is part of its fulfillment. To get a deeper understanding of Jesus’ relationship with the Jewish Law and his fulfilling of it, we want to take note of the wisdom of the Primacy as Pope Benedict teaches us something about Jesus and the Law that helps our understanding of the Word and therefore our walk in faith, and what the Pope teaches is this: some in the Jewish faith referred to the Torah, the Law, as “bread.”  Jesus is the “bread of life,” John 6:35, therefore “The law has become a person.”  Thank you Papa!!  Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth I, p.268.
Back to the Shema.  Jesus would have memorized the Shema as a boy. Jesus’ “prayer book” would have been the Psalms but he would have recited the Shema every morning and every evening at the beginning of his prayers.  The Shema begins with Deuteronomy 6:4-9, “Hear O Israel!  The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!  Therefore, you shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today. Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest.  Bind them at your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead.  Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.”
That is a prayer that we know without a doubt, with total certainty that Jesus prayed every single day of his life.  On the last day of his life, Jesus was in prayer, from the Garden of Gethsemane, “Sit here while I go over there and pray,” Mt. 26:36, to the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”  Psalm 22 as reflected in Mt. 27:46.  This is important.  The Shema as prayer was seared on the heart of our Savior.  Notice the three essential “alls” that the Shema call us to love God with, namely with all our heart, soul, and strength.
So Jesus learns as a child that loving God above all else: job, money, possessions, family, friends, personal goals, jobs, literally everything and everyone else, must be done with all our hearts, souls, and strength.  This was his daily prayer.  Jesus knows and personally manifests through prayer that if we are breathing we should be loving God above all else because our every breath is a gift from God, as the Psalms he prayed reveal, “When you take away their breath, they perish and return to the dust from which they came.”  Psalm 104:29.
Now look at this revealing addition that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, makes to the Shema, when a scribe, a scholar of the Jewish Law approaches Jesus with a question on the Law, “Teacher, which commandment in the Law is the greatest?”  Keep in mind that no one else but Jesus would have the courage to even think about adding to the Shema and see if you can pick up what Jesus does add to the prayer life of the Jewish faith, something St. Paul was keen to pick up on in his teaching of the faith and Gospel.
Jesus responds, “Hear O Israel!  The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”  Mark 12:29-30.  Jesus goes on to add the essential command to “love your neighbor as yourself” but today we will focus on what you just read, yes, Jesus himself added the human mind to the Shema, Jesus added the human mind as a God given gift and means of prayer, praise, thanks, knowing and loving God alone, above all others and else. This is big.  This is important.  What has been on your mind lately?
Why would Jesus add the “mind” to this century’s old and daily prayer of the Jewish faith?  Jesus is God…and Man…fully human Jesus understood human nature, it’s strengths and weaknesses, “But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature.  He himself understood it well.” John 2:25
Jesus, from personal experience in his dealing with the strangers, friends, family, and Pharisees, knew that our minds can be confused and misled in many ways including sin, for example, John 8:34 the world/mammon, Luke 16:13 false prophets, and misinterpreting the bible, “Are you not misled because you do not know the Scriptures,” Mark 12:24, and also the seductive philosophies of the world.  If our minds are confused and misled in any of these ways, our hearts will not be able to know, love and serve God.  Jesus is God, Jesus is always right.  Yes, if our minds are confused with the self/world/sin then we will not seek to love God but only ourselves and the things of the world. I personally, along with so many Sowers, can and have testified to this truth.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus prophesizes that this very thing will be happening in the world, that peoples minds will be mislead to hate and to perform atrocities by false prophets, “Many will be led into sin, they will betray and hate one another.  Many false prophets will arise and deceive many.”  Matthew 24:10-11.  Jesus was even accused by his enemies of being out of his mind.  How messed up is that?  Thinking they were of sound mind and Jesus was not, “again there was a division among the Jews because of these words.  Many of them said, “He is possessed and out of his mind.”  John 10: 19-20.
St. Paul, will consistently and clearly teach his faithful the importance of a clear mind and conscience.  He revealed to the Roman Church about how others will attempt to put rubbish in their/our minds, “I urge you brothers to watch out for those who create dissensions and obstacles, in opposition to the teaching that you learned, avoid them. For such people to not serve the Lord Christ but their own appetites and by fair and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the innocent.”  Romans 16:17-18.  To get a good biblical perspective of how rampant the deception of the human mind by fools, false prophet, and deceivers can be and has been throughout the ages, please also read: Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 2:4-8; 1 John 2:26; 3:7.
A confused mind not only affects the individual but also has familial, local, national, and even world wide consequences.  As I am writing these words, a salient example of how a person’s mind can be so confused as to harm himself a nation and even the world is unfolding now in Norway, when one confused assailant bombed his own capital city and murdered his own countryman.  The mind is fragile. It needs Truth. What happened to his mind?  Was it something he experienced?  Was it something he read?  Was it his friends?  How can someone be so confused as to manifest hate in such a way while claiming that “it was necessary?”
Are you seeing Jesus’ point?  Are you seeing the fulfillment of the Law in his addition of our minds to the Shema?  Are you seeing the Pope’s wisdom that Jesus is the Law incarnate and we must always follow that Law?  Are you seeing how a confused mind, filled with the self, the world, false interpretations of the Bible, foolish philosophies, and a zillion other possibilities, will never lead to that persons fulfillment and salvation by surrendering theirs lives and hearts to Jesus and loving God above all else?
To me the purpose and meaning of why Jesus added the human mind to the sacred prayer, the Shema is clear.  Make it personal.  Have you ever believed something and argued your point with friends and family members, or even taught it to others and later found out it was not true?  Have you ever lived with a confused mind?
If you have been reading these reflections you will know that my answer is “for sure, certainly, without a doubt.”  Yes for years my mind was confused by being too focused on myself, sex, alcohol, money, pride, greed, etc.  On Sundays I professed faith in God, I said I loved God but those were false statements because all my heart, soul, strength, and mind was directed to pleasing and loving only myself, not God.  I was professing the Gospel of Jesus Christ but living the Gospel of Joe.
How can we change this reality.  How does a person humble themselves by being able to say “I was wrong?”  “What I believed was wrong?”  All Sowers will know the answer. The mind must be filled with Light not darkness.  Love not ego.  Humility not pride.  Chastity not lust.  Forgiveness not hate.  Mercy not revenge.  For this transformation to happen, which is a transformation of the heart and mind, our minds must be RENEWED through metanoia, a total and authentic surrender of the “self” to Jesus Christ.
Yes, as Sowers we clearly see the importance of Jesus’ first command in the Gospel of Mark.  Yes, Jesus in the first recorded Gospel proclaims that “This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.” What must a person do in order to recognize, believe, and live this truth?  METANOIA!!  Amen to the Blood.
This is a time for rejoicing in God’s anointing because the Word and our ESNE/Sower teaching based on the Word of God and his Church, has been so clear, consistent, and understood, namely that the cleansing/renewal/purifying of a person’s mind begins with a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, a surrender of our “selves” to Jesus, a metanoia.
As we have seen in earlier reflections, the word translated as “repent” in Mark 1:15, is metanoia which is the Greek word that literally means, “change your mind.”  Jesus knew exactly what he was doing and saying.  Jesus connects the Shema with his command to repent and believe.  Amen to the Blood and the majesty of the Word.
So Jesus commands us to metanoia because he knows many of our minds are all messed up.  They are filled with the self, anger, slander, possessions, sex, money, greed, revenge, foolish philosophies; please add what you know about your own mind and that which you have experienced in others.  A person MUST HAVE A METANOIA.  In order for the Spirit to enter the heart, our minds must be cleansed/renewed, we must be aware of our sin/confusion/selfishness and repent.
Yes, our minds must be cleansed of all that was keeping us from a personal encounter with Jesus.  Our minds must be cleansed of the self, the world, and sin, in order that we authentically surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, receive the Holy Spirit, become a new creation, believe and follow him, and BE RENEWED IN MIND AND HEART, as Jesus says, “Repent (metanoia) and believe in the Gospel.”  Mark 1:15.  A person cannot authentically believe in Jesus and his Gospel if their minds are living in error/confusion and filled with the self and sin.  Punto final.
You and I have seen this truth personally.  We know who we were before surrendering our lives to Jesus, we know what kinds of things were constantly on our minds before having a personal encounter with him and receiving the Holy Spirit and serving him in others and finally awakening to the majesty of the Church in Word and Sacrament.
We have also seen how a confused and misled mind can shatter the lives of so many individuals, families, communities, and nations:  like a family member taking their own life because their mind was so distraught they found no hope in life, like a friend, brother, or cousins mind, being ripped to shreds through and addiction to drugs and alcohol, like totally misinterpreting God’s Word and murdering doctors who perform abortions in God’s Holy Name, like hanging the eight year old son of a police chief in Afghanistan because he would not give the Taliban a police car.  The examples are endless. We know this.
We can also see the reason why Jesus added the human mind to the Shema through the everyday circumstances of life.  For example if you play sports, how many mind games are going on there?  Tons.  Like when a basketball player is at the free throw line and  they need two free throws to tie the game with less than a second left on the clock, meaning miss one and your team loses.
What often happens is that a person on the opposite team will walk up to the guy/girl and say something to get in their head, trying to play with their mind, psyche them out, hoping to cause them to miss a free throw and lose the game, things like “your gonna be a goat or a hero,”  “all your life you’ve been waiting for this moment,” or “didn’t you miss one like this last year?”  All this stuff goes in the persons mind and for the weak of mind, they actually think about it and get messed up and miss one of the free throws and the team loses the game.
At a certain level of professional sports, every person on the team was the top athlete in high school and college.  Every person on the team has outstanding God given physical talent.  What separates the average professional from the great ones is their minds. The elite athlete will be able to control what is going through their minds in ways that others simply cannot. Those who are strong minded do not allow the “outside” voices and thoughts to effect their performances, guys like Kareem, Kobe and Jordan.  I believe this is the part of the game that is keeping LeBron from being a champion, the mental part.
I am a long time and die hard Lakers fan, but I respect other players who play hard and can perform well under pressure and so although I can’t stand anything green and Celtic, if I had to pick one person with the game on the line to be shooting the teams free throws it would be Larry Bird.  The guy was stone faced, cold blooded, he was so confident that nothing and no one could “psyche” him out at the line, his mind was clear and focused on the task at hand, winning championships, which he did three times, great job, now he only trails Magic and Kobe by two.
There are a million other examples of how our minds are so important to our ability to follow Jesus new command of love and follow Jesus’ Shema command to love God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.  We know that we cannot fulfill the Shema if our minds are consumed/passionate about ourselves and the things of this world.  We know that our hearts and everything and everyone else around us will be affected.
Remember when you fell in love?  What was on your mind?  The person you were in love with.  Yes, minute by minute, day after day, month after month, the most dominating thought in a mind that falls in love is the person they are in love with.  It consumes us. It affects every aspect of our life: study, work, family, friends, free time, eating habits, literally everything, because our minds are occupied with thoughts of love, another person.
What is really bad though is what happens to the mind of a person when love is betrayed or lost.  For example, have you ever been left for another?  Have you ever been cheated on by the person you love?  Then you know exactly what I mean. The mind is literally traumatized in ways that everyone who has ever been lied too and left for another or cheated on can easily explain; tears, phones calls, anxiety, red face, nausea, hatred, confusion, questions, fear, and even ulcers are all possibilities.  Our minds are fragile.  Our minds are powerful.  Thousands of thoughts enter our minds daily.  Without the presence of Jesus in our lives our minds can be led astray in a thousand different ways, most of them not good.
Or remember when the only thing on your mind was money and all you ever did was think about ways to make more money and buy more things?  And then your daughter got sick.  Really sick.  What happened?  The things that were once so important to you, consuming all your thoughts and emotions went away, the health of your daughter put “money” into its proper perspective.  The only thing one your mind now is her.  Her health, her doctors, her medication, her life.
Jesus is saying to you and I right now put me first, let me be on your mind and I will guide and cleanse your heart.  You will make better decisions, you will have more joy and peace, your marriage will be stronger, your children will learn from your example, and literally everything in your life will be better if I am first and foremost on your mind. That is always the proper perspective. Jesus first, Jesus always, means that we can go about our daily lives in a normal way: our jobs, our taking care of the home and family, and other activities, but the focus of our day and what literally always on our minds is JESUS.
Again, based on Jesus’ addition of the “mind” to the daily ancient Jewish prayer, the Shema, we have been naming different and varied scenarios as to how our minds can be challenged by sin, errant theologies and philosophies, the world, and the self.   As believers, in order for us to manifest the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the world, the gifts of Galatians 5:22, our minds must be daily renewed by the Holy Spirit, through a life of prayer, Word, Sacrament, and service.  Back to the Word.
The Palmist asks God to test not only his heart but also his mind.  Why?  Because he knows what God will find when he tests his mind, namely that he is not a deceiver, a worshipper of the lips and not heart, saying things in public that are different that what he believes and acts upon in private, “Test me Lord, and try me.  Your love is before my eyes, I walk guided by your faithfulness.”  Psalm 26: 2-3.  Say this prayer and let the Holy Spirit speak to your heart.
In the Book of Proverbs we find wise teachings on the human mind and it effects on our daily life and our walk in the Father’s vineyard, “A tranquil mind gives life to the body, but jealousy rots the bones.”  Proverbs 14:30.  This is true.  Use your personal experience.  Does not every person, believer and non-believer alike seek “peace of mind?”  Can anyone attain “peace of mind” if their mind is constantly inundated with thoughts of jealousy?  No.
The prophet Jeremiah, sent by God to warn Israel of the wrath and punishment that was about to be unleashed upon them for their idolatry, immolation of their children in a false sacrifice, and unrepentant hearts, tells them that nothing is hidden from God, no, God knows everything they are thinking and doing as they will be judged accordingly, “I, the Lord, alone probe the mind, and test the heart, to reward everyone according to his ways, according to the merit of his deeds.”  Jeremiah 17:10; 20:12.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus’ first gift to his mathetes was the gift of peace.  Peace of mind and heart.  Their minds were filled with death, fear, regret, failure, and confusion.  Jesus knew this.  Jesus is God. God knows these things. Jesus knew that their minds must be renewed so their hearts would be open to the power of the Holy Spirit, so first he bestows on them his majestic gift of peace, a gift the entire world is seeking, “Jesus said to them again, peace be with you.  As the Father sent me, so I send you.  And when he had said this he breathed on them and said to them, receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20: 21-22.
As we begin to study the Pauline corpus, we will see how the Word unveils the importance of how a Christians mind and heart must be united, working as one.  As this revelation unfolds in your heart and mind, keep in mind the reason for this, namely that our eternal spiritual enemy, satan, is constantly trying to put his ugliness into our minds so as to change our hearts and entice us to choose sin.  Sin is always a division.  A division between us and God, family, Church, society.
Begin to take note of the things on your mind.  Begin to take note of what kinds of things can go from your mind to your heart. This past week, what were the things most often on your mind?  Are there things that come to your mind that still cause you to suffer?  What do you do when this happens?  What can we do to increase Godly thoughts and decrease the unwanted and evil ones?  Note how in the past, before metanoia, the things on your mind did change your heart in the wrong way, and the consequence of this was a division between yourself and God, family, friends, and Church.
As we have said before, St. Paul was not arrogant enough to think he was writing Sacred Scripture when he wrote his letters to the Catholic Churches in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, and Thessalonica.  No, St. Paul’s intention was to write letters to the Churches, the intention of the Holy Spirit however was to write Sacred Scripture through him.  So although St. Paul himself did not know or intend that his letters would become part of the bible, the Holy Spirit did and therefore Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit endowed St. Paul with the abundance of the fruits and gifts of the Spirit to do so.
With his background as a Pharisee, Phil. 3:5, Jesus chose St. Paul as his Apostle to the Gentiles.  In the power of the Holy Spirit, he went throughout the Roman Empire and debated and dialogued with Jews, Christian heretics, countless philosophers, and those who adhered to the worship of false gods.  St. Paul knew Jesus personally.  St. Paul lived and manifested the Holy Spirit in power.  St. Paul gave his testimony of who he was before personally encountering the living God, Jesus Christ, and who he was after the transformation on the road to Damascus.
Because of his background as a Pharisee, a tentmaker, a persecutor of the Church, and now an Apostle endowed with amazing gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, in his proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he was always able to know when the person he was debating or teaching was living with a mind filled with confusion, lies, false gods, errant philosophies, and using his knowledge of Jesus’ Gospel and the testimony of how his own mind was errant/confused/sinful, through his teaching, testimony, and writings, the Holy Spirit was able to penetrate the hearts and minds of countless wayward souls.
The same knowledge of truth, God’s will, and commands, that St. Paul shared with philosophers, pagans, and Jews, he also shared with his Churches because the Gospel is a universal Truth that Jesus commanded all his mathetes to share with the entire world, “Go therefore, and make mathetes (disciples) of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”  Matthew 28:19-20.
This is a Truth that we as mathetes need to be reminded about ourselves daily, in prayer, Word, sacrament, and service because as St. Paul often reminds the Church, they were once pagans, confused in mind, errant in spirit and in heart.  As we prepare to receive St. Paul’s revelation to the Church, take a moment in prayer, ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart and mind to the Word of God.
Ask the Holy Spirit, in the power of the Word to renew you mind and heart in the Truth and presence of Jesus Christ, whom through the Spirit will be speaking directly to you in his Word. Place yourself in the Word right now.  Yes, be keenly and honestly aware of the good and bad things that are coming into your mind and have been coming into your mind and ask the Holy Spirit to cleanse and renew your mind and heart so that Jesus’ plan and purpose for your day and life may be made clear and manifest.
In the bible, Jesus reveals that he is “The way the truth and the life,” that we must worship him in “Spirit and truth,” and that he will ask the Father and the Father will send us an Advocate, the “Spirit of truth.”  John 14:6; 4:24; 14:17.  As we have seen Truth is hard to believe when a persons mind has been polluted with misconceptions and lies and how those lies can seep into ones heart to create a false truth.
Testimony is power because in our testimonies we reveal the truth about our past bad choices and sins, and how in the power of the Spirit we have changed, in order that others who listen to our testimonies can be changed in mind and heart by the power of the Spirit.  St. Paul had an amazing testimony which he gave to anyone willing to listen, in order to show the Jews, Gentiles, and now us, how messed up a persons mind can be, and what needs to happened to change a mind from “messed to blessed.”  Shout out to my brother Angel, who replies to the question “How are you doing today?” by smiling and saying, “Blessed by the Best.”  Amen.
Here is a glimpse of St. Paul’s testimony which will help us understand what is needed in order for a person to follow Jesus’ change to the Shema, his new command to love God with all our hearts, souls, mind, and strength.  “Circumcised on the eight day, of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrew parentage, in observance of the law a Pharisee, in zeal I persecuted the Church, in righteousness based on the law, I was blameless.”  Phil. 3:5-6.
Wow, his testimony is that he was blameless for persecuting the Church.  Not just persecution but St. Paul was also a witness and accomplice to the murder of St. Steven, Acts 7:58-8:1-3, so how can this be true?  Because he was acting upon what he believed, what was driving his mind and in his heart from being raised as a faithful Jew and Pharisee, namely that his faith had to be protected from deceivers, blasphemers, and false prophets, at any cost, which according to the Law allowed them to put to death those whom they believed were guilty of such acts, including the Christians.
How did this change for St. Paul?  A personal encounter with Jesus Christ.  Please read Acts 9:1-19.  Yes, without faith in Jesus Christ, metanoia and receiving of the Holy Spirit, St. Paul’s teaching is that our minds want to follow God’s law but are constantly losing the battle to the flesh/sin, “So then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand.  For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.”  Romans 7:21-23.
Beautiful.  Remember, this is a letter to the Christian Church in Rome, meaning St. Paul is looking back at who he was, how he acted, what was on his mind and in his heart.  He is giving a testimony, the Holy Spirit knows he is writing Sacred Scripture, but he does not.  This is the first part of the testimony, when a person shares how they once lived in error of mind and heart, the second part is what happened (he met Jesus!) and the third part is how we live today.  So now listen to the second part of St. Paul’s testimony, “Miserable one that I am!  Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Romans 7: 24-25.
Amen to the Blood of the Father’s Lamb, through Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone are we saved and have the grace of Truth cleanse and renew or minds and hearts from all the errors, lies and sins that once dominated them.  Listen to the words of another brilliant Catholic theologian as to what the Spirit is revealing in St. Paul’s testimony to the Romans,
“He (Paul) finds that the problem is not with the law, but with human beings themselves. The trouble is that they are carnal, made of flesh that is weak, and prone to succumb to the attacks of sin, which dwells within them…Yet not all in human beings sin, there is also the mind (nous) which does acknowledge God’s law and does acknowledge what it desires of humans.  But the “mind” itself is not empowered to resist the seductions of sin. Eventually, Paul recognizes the wretched state of human beings and acknowledges that only “through Jesus Christ our Lord (7:25) can this situation be remedied, through divine grace and in the power of the Spirit.”  Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Romans, The Anchor Bible, p.472.
Amen to the Blood.  To be cleansed of false philosophies/foolishness/selfishness/sin, our minds must experience metanoia, a total surrender of our minds and hearts to Jesus, and then and only then will we share in his victory over sin through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul reveals, “Hence there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the law of sin and death.  Romans 8:1-2.  A good way to know if you and I live with the Holy Spirit and have a victory in the Blood of Jesus’ cross and resurrection is to see what on a daily basis “concerns” us.
The Apostle goes on to say and the Word reveals that, “For those who are living according to the flesh are concerned with things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit with the things of the Spirit.”  Romans 8:5.  The Greek word translated here as “concerned” is phroneo, which can also be translated, as the NJB does, “those who set their minds on.”  The meaning is clear.  If we say we are Christians, but are minds are set on, meaning dominated and constantly inundated with thoughts of greed, lust, revenge, jealousy, and hate, then Jesus is not first in our lives, those things are, they are our gods, and consequently we cannot love and serve God as he has planned and purposed because we are still in the flesh, meaning we still live in and with the wrong spirit.
Ouch.  If there is any possibility that this is true in your life right now, I encourage you at this very moment, to get on your knees and say I am sorry, seek his forgiveness, seek his mercy, ask for the power of his Spirit to come into your life to enlighten your mind and heart.  Yes, seek Jesus love, mercy, and Spirit right now, and tomorrow find a priest and confess your sins so as to receive the eternal power of Pentecost, the decent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, in the sacrament of Reconciliation.
St. Paul goes on to teach the Catholics in Roman that in order for us as Christians to know God’s will, what he plans and purposes for us, our minds must continually be renewed.  Why must this be continuous, meaning that daily we must choose to grow in  faith, love, and fruits and gifts of the Spirit?  Because we are concupiscent, as Fr. Fitzmyer said, we are “prone to the attacks of sin,” and for sure, we all succumb to sin. The point is that even if we live in and with the Spirit, we have not as yet been “perfected,” we can make bad choices, we can begin to go astray, we can allow selfishness and sin to creep its way back into our lives.
Renewal of our minds, through prayer, Word, sacrament, and service, keeps us attentive to Jesus’ voice, his sending, his will, as the Apostle teaches, “Do not conform yourself to this age but be transformed by the renewal of you mind, that that your may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.  Romans 12:2.
How do you personally allow your mind to be renewed?  Do you have a daily prayer life?  Do you take time to read the bible and teach it to your children?  Do you follow the teaching of the Church that is bound in heaven, namely to confess your sins at least once a year?  Do you receive the Body and the Blood, the true presence of Jesus Christ: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, on a weekly basis?  How do you serve him?
Your answers are important and telling and known by Jesus. An honest answer will allow the Holy Spirit to either encourage you to continue, “I know your works, your love, faith, service, and endurance, and that your last works are greater than the first.”  Revelation 2:19.  Or the Holy Spirit will admonish you and call you back to Jesus, “Realize how far you have fallen.  Repent and do the works which you did at first.  Otherwise I will come and remove my lampstand from its place, unless you repent.  Revelations 2:5  The Lampstand is the Holy Spirit.  We are to shine like lambstands in a world of darkness through the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.  No Jesus, no Light.  No Light, no lampstand.
What are some of the characteristics that St. Paul would point to in order to identify an individual Christian and also that of a ministry and Church as living in the Spirit and having the “mind of Christ?”  An essential one for the Apostle would be unity as opposed to division:
Romans 12:3 “I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly that one ought to think.”  Please read all of chapter 12 as the Word exhorts us to generosity, rejoicing, humility, and peace.
Romans 15:5 “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one voice, glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  The teaching is clear, our harmony and unity in ministry and Church glorify the Father.  Our division, slander, envy, disrespect, and anger with one another, glorifies the enemy of our Father.
1 Corinthians 1:10 “I urge you brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.”  The Truth is clear.
Philippians 1:27 “Conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear new of you, that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, struggling together for the faith of the Gospel.”
Philippians 2:2 “if there is any encouragement in Christ, and solace in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing.”  Punto final.
How well are you personally living this Word of unity as opposed to division in your family, your ministry, your Church?  If you answer, “Not very well, there is division in my family, in my ministry, or in my Church,” begin to identify what is causing this.  For example my family is divided right now because of jealousy and money, this is evil, this is not part of God’s plan or purpose for us as a family, please keep us in prayer.
If there is division in your ministry, identify the cause.  My experience is that division in ministry is usually caused by ego, the ego which is fed by pride, slander, or the seeking of power.  This is not of Jesus, but of the enemy.  Prayer is more powerful than the enemy, “Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thess. 5:16-17.  Trust this Word.  Act upon this Word, and if you in any way are responsible for the division, humble yourself today, apologize, seek unity of mind and heart in your ministry and go to the sacrament of Reconciliation.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, that is all I have in the Spirit for now!!  I am keeping each and everyone one you in my “thoughts” and prayers.  Through an unwavering faith in Jesus Christ we will always be united in love and Spirit.  May the Spirit of kindness be a shining Light as you walk in the Father’s vineyard today and may your mind and heart be opened to receiving new gifts from Jesus in the Holy Spirit.  Amen to the Blood of the Father’s Lamb, Jesus Christ.
JFJA
Grace and peace,
Joseph