October 31, 2016
by Mike Kelly
Creighton University's
click here for photo and information about the writer

Monday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 485

Philippians 2:1-4
Psalms 131:1bcde, 2, 3
Luke 14:12-14

Praying Ordinary Time

What is Paul asking us as Christians in Philippians : 2 1-4 when he asks us to be “united in heart, thinking one thing” as we act humbly for the betterment of others?  The Spirit links our hearts in a very emotional way, filling them with faith and love.  Surely Paul was aware that the power of so many hearts filled with so much faith and acting in selflessness could create culture-shifting movements within societies rooted in stagnant belief systems and stale religious practices like the ones ringing the Mediterranean world at that time.  But that awesome power for change had to be directed “by being of the same mind” in order to achieve the good ends that were sought.  

We often hear the phrase “mind, heart, and soul” and Paul is looking to unite these for selfless acts of love spreading like a wave throughout the land.  Indeed, Jesus himself uses a similar construction in Matthew 22:37 when he says, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.”  These three aspects of our humanness equal our totality.  They are, you might say, our internal trinity.  And they are just as mysterious.

We have all felt out of balance in our lives when one aspect is emphasized over the others.  Academics are especially prone to let the “life of the mind” overshadow everything else – burying themselves in books for decades on end, only to realize too late that their families are grown and their kids are gone and they missed it.  And of course the hearts of the young who find themselves consumed by being “in love” can overwhelm rational thought or perhaps even faith.  

Paul wants us to find balance.  But he also wants us to act together in the same spirit.  And he wants ALL of us.  Not part of us.  The totality of our mind, heart, and soul should be put into our selfless acts.  This should be done for the benefit of the recipient, not ourselves – as Jesus emphasizes in the second reading from Luke.  The feeling of joy that Paul also speaks about is what comes back to us.  And (here is the hard part), he wants ALL of us for ALL our acts!  "Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves.”

For those of us living in the most advanced industrialized civilization in the 21st century, this is a tall order.  Capitalism rests to some extent on consumerism which can lead in the exact opposite direction Paul is pointing.  So our culture may hamper us in this regard and we may not be easily acclimated to carrying out this important charge.  But if it comes through a sense of service to others, then perhaps we can get there without realizing it?  “Service to others” is the hallmark of every Jesuit educational institution.  And while this habit of acting selflessly may come more easily to students who arrive at universities like Creighton from a Jesuit high school, those who arrive without that background very quickly find themselves embracing it.  

Interestingly, from an international point of view, we have seen foreign students arriving on campus from Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and other faith traditions who eagerly take up this charge.  And while they don’t often convert to Christianity while they’re here, they do carry this selflessness as an orienting point on their internal moral compasses back to their own countries and faiths.  Over the long term, this has to be a good thing.  And who knows where it will lead?  Perhaps Paul would be amazed that his admonition lives on in this way and can be transported to many different cultures?  Or perhaps he already knew that.

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