I remember as a child aged perhaps 8 or 9 finding a box of old bits and pieces that had somehow ended up at our home, probably passed down from the clean-up of the home of great aunts or uncles. There was nothing of interest to a child in the box, but one thing caught my attention, an old tea tin/caddy which someone had taken the trouble to turn into a piggy-bank painting a proverb around the sides which read: “What then will it gain you if you win the whole world and lose your soul.”
The quotation is from today’s first reading and follows Jesus speaking pretty strongly to Peter reprimanding him for thinking with a human mind rather than a divine mind.
What does Jesus expect? After all we are not God, and we are human. Isn’t it natural that we would think with a human mind?
Well yes, and no.
The problem comes when we believe that our present experience of humanity is what it means to be human in the image of God.
Yes, we are created in the image of God, but from the beginning humans have too often used their freedom in ways that are at least less than helpful and even harmful to ourselves and to others.
Deep inside ourselves, maybe felt as a burning within, we know this to be true. We feel the tension between our original mind (which is our image-of-God-mind) and what Jesus refers to as our human mind. Remember St Paul writing that he finds himself doing the things he does not want to do and not doing the things he wants to do. He is in two minds.
I can relate to this struggle.
When we think with our original mind (that is the mind in the image of God) we feel uplifted, inspired and even excited. This is where the best of human creativity, art and music and literature comes from. This is the mind that motivates us to love and enables us to find life-giving meaning in human struggles and to forgive those who have harmed us.
Remember the proverb: to err is human, to forgive is divine.
Too often we operate with an unredeemed earthly perspective. With this insular vision, what is superficial, physical and tangible drains our time, energy and resources as we set about ‘winning the world’.
Jeremiah is very aware of the cost of taking up his cross and expresses this in a string of complaints in today’s first reading. Interestingly such a grizzle at God became known as a jeremiad!)
We find our human health and happiness when we wake to the honest and hope-filled feeling that Jeremiah experienced when he moves beyond the moanings of his own miserable mind, lifts his gaze, and begins to think with the new mind God offers him.
After first trying to avoid the tension and difficulties by ignoring God “I will not think about him, I will not speak in his name any more” Jeremiah acknowledges “Then there seemed to be a fire burning in my heart imprisoned in my bones. The effort to restrain it wearied me, I could not bear it.”
We often think that God’s way is the harder way and that God’s will is the toughest of the options. Perhaps the reality is that the effort to ‘not think about God, to speak in God’s name no more’ is much more difficult than the alternative?
- As many of us continue these days as a retreat-in-daily-life, this simple morning and evening reflection might be helpful. Try it on waking in the morning before getting out of bed, or last thing at night after turning out the light.
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your initials to join those taking these few days as a simple retreat-in-daily-life, and to invite others to keep you in prayer. Click the image to enlarge.