The Renewal of our Mind
By Dennis S. Hankins
Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good, and acceptable, and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
The mind Paul speaks of is more than the rational faulty. He invites us to a renewal of the highest faculty of human nature – literally, the ‘eyes of your heart enlightened’ by which we comprehend God in all of his redeeming goodness. Orthodox Christians pray before the reading of the Gospel, “Illumine our hearts, O Master who love mankind, with the pure light of your divine knowledge.”
A powerful ray of this ‘pure light’ enabled Peter to confess, “You are the Christ. The Son of of the living God.” Jesus said this understanding was more than human intelligence, that his Father revealed this to Peter. Peter became a mouthpiece of the ‘pure light of divine knowledge.’ Humbling stuff, don’t you think? For sure!
But in today’s Gospel Jesus tells the rest of the story. He reveals what that revelation fully means. It means going to Jerusalem to face hostile religious leaders. It means betrayal, trial, and finally death; death on a cross. People whose hearts are mysteriously dark because the pure light has not entered them, will kill the Son of the Father’s love, the pure and holy Light of the world.
And then looking into the bewildered hearts of his disciples, Jesus says, “Brethren, do not be afraid of this. On the third day I will rise.”
It is nevertheless a moment very difficult to grasp. Peter himself struggles deeply with the meaning of Jesus’ words. So much so that he takes Jesus aside to speak his mind: “God forbid, Lord! Never! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” We can imagine Peter grasping the shoulders of Jesus so the fulness of his determined face will not go unnoticed. Maybe his lips are trembling a bit. Perhaps his eyes well up with tears; he drops his hands from the Master’s shoulders while Jesus turns away for a moment; a moment of intense discomfort.
Turning back to Peter, Jesus grasps the shoulders of the man entrusted with the keys of the kingdom of heaven and looks straight into his eyes. He speaks so that only Peter hears him. The words sound harsh to us, but for Peter they are meant to get him back on track. Peter listens intently as Jesus says with firm, yet gentle strength, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are not thinking as God thinks, but as human beings do.”
Before we judge Peter too quickly let us remember that the renewing of our mind may not always be in full play either. That we may not always live up to our baptism even among our closest loved ones. That too often we don’t allow love for God and neighbor animate us. And we may not rejoice enough in the reality that it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory God in the face of Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 4:6)
So the readings today remind us to pray with humility and to ask more often for help to be faithful. To be more empty of our way of living and more filled with God’s life. I know that sometimes being a Christian is not popular. Our message and witness is not always accepted. Ageless truth and timeless hope are treasures we offer to a world often filled with criticism of the mystery of the Christ we serve. But consistent with Christian witness throughout all time we are a living sacrifice. The aroma of Christ in the world. We cannot help but speak of him; his word in our heart is like a burning fire – a fire that purifies our minds and makes us acceptable to God.
We are in the world but we are citizens of a heavenly city. In our union with Christ we recommend to the whole world that there is another way; that there is another King. This is our cross. We are honored to take it up and to follow him. Losing our life for his sake we find it. For what profit is it to gain the approval of the whole world but lose our soul?
Today let us desire an even deeper renewal in our lives so that we will ever have that illumination to know what is true, and good, and beautiful and thus be found faithful disciples of Christ and his Church. Amen.