Repeated ‘load shedding’ has a disruptive effect on our daily life. To receive electricity we rely on the ability to ‘plug in’. When that is not possible all our electric appliances are powerless. When Bishop Tutu was questioned about the power of his Christian witness in society he replied, ‘We are like light bulbs, all we have to do is be plugged in’.
To the people around him Jesus said, ’Let your light shine’. His own life was radiant with love toward God and people. When Paul wrote to the small Christian group in Philippi after his visit he urged them to ‘have the mind in you that was in Christ Jesus’. They were new converts. They had no instructor who had been trained by Jesus. Being a Christian was an entirely new venture. Without an instructor how do you learn to play chess, drive a car, or knit a cardigan? How then was it possible for them to have the mind of Christ?
In his letter Paul gave them some insights (Read Phil. 21-8). He refers to how Jesus thought of himself. Supremely important was his oneness with the unfathomable God of love; this was the factor governing all Jesus did. Humility was the hall-mark of this relationship with God; he saw himself as a servant to show God’s compassion to anyone. A further characteristic was his full humanity; his solidarity with human beings; hunger and thirst, anger and tiredness, tears and laughter, pleasure and pain were clearly evident. These were the features Paul urged the Philippians to have to be like Christ – be God centered, be humble, and a true, fully human, being.
In our present age with its climate change, international conflicts, global pandemic, cultural, ethnic, racial tensions, scientific achievement and a relentless bombardment of secular, sensual, materialistic, and hedonistic pressures our mind can be blinded (2.Cor.4:4) to the spiritual world. How can Paul’s letter help us see a way of being plugged in to the mind of Christ for who that other world was real? From the insights Paul gives we could begin by asking how do we think of ourselves and how do we think about God. Due to our dualistic style of thinking (and our ego) we make the mistake of thinking of ourselves as being entirely independent and separated from God. We need a nondual approach. Once when walking in the woods adjacent to the monastery Thomas Merton met a hermit who, pointing to the sky exclaimed, ‘Tell them God is not up there. He is here’. To realize the truth of that nondual, spiritual, mystical reality is what we need to plug into.
Sadly, most of the time we think of God (or Christ) as only names in religious talk unrelated to the demands of our daily life. We are necessarily preoccupied with our daily activities and agenda. Yet when speaking to ordinary people who were subject to the responsibilities and pressures of day to day living Jesus said, perhaps to their surprise, ‘The kingdom of God is within you’. They were more than human flesh and blood and so are we.
Covid restrictions have forced us to rethink our practices. We do not have to go to church to meet with God. His presence is not confined to any one place. He is always there. We can plug in to him wherever we are. To cultivate the mind of Christ the Jesuits, learn to see God in everything. If we want to do that we may have to drop a lot of the baggage we have become accustomed to – habits, attitudes, prejudices, distorted ideas, false teaching.
Keeping company with Jesus by reading the Bible is important. We cannot have his mind in us if we have no idea what he taught and did. The record is in the gospels. When we take time to read, slowly, attentively, with an open mind, a text may, to quote C. S. Lewis ‘jump out at us, like a lion out of a thicket’. To get a valid picture of Jesus we can safely move past the passages we don’t understand. As Mark Twain is reputed to have confessed “It isn’t the passages I can’t understand that trouble me most. It’s those I do understand”. As we read the gospels Jesus may, in digital terms, come alive on our screen – his character, style of life and frame of mind, being so different, will challenge our way of living and thinking. Augustine of Hippo was abruptly halted in his immoral conduct when he read the gospels and learned of Jesus.
When Jesus really comes into focus in our thinking we can move from knowing about him, to knowing him first hand. Jesus said “Remain in me, as I also remain in you” Jn.15:4). We then move beyond ideas only to experience the impact of his power. His love of God, his humility and solidarity with humanity, his concern for justice and human dignity will change our thinking. When we are plugged in to that, then, as Bishop Tutu said, our life will shine.