“For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.” (Gal 1,21) St. Paul reveals to us a beautiful truth of his life, that he is so identified with Christ in his life and the love of Christ offered to the world that he sees his life as the life of Christ. This is the mystery revealed in the name “Christian” that is given to the followers of Jesus Christ at Antioch in the first century. We are all meant to be identified with Christ in our lives and live, no longer for ourselves, but for Christ. (cf Rom 14,8) Paul will speak about this mystery in his letter to the Colossians where he will encourage us: “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3,2f) Paul considers the only knowledge that is important to him is the knowledge of Christ when he says to the Corinthians: “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1Cor 2,2)
In this we begin to understand that our faith and our practice of the faith are not something that we can consider as an “add on” to our lives. Our Christian faith is not something that we live in our spare time when we are finished with our other tasks and responsibilities. Our identity as Catholic Christians is not something that is one thing among many, rather it is meant to be the center of our lives. “For to me life is Christ.” To live is to carry the presence of Christ always with me out into the world and to bear witness to the love of Christ in all that I do. Our lives bear a single truth and are lived in integrity to that truth which is: “it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.” (Col 1,27)
Paul will also speak to us about thinking always with Christ in our minds and hearts. He proclaims that we have the “mind of Christ”. All of our thoughts should be directed as were the thoughts of Christ to the glory of the Father and to accomplishing his will through obedience. We are “free thinkers” but the freedom of our thought comes in the freedom of the truth that we have received in Christ who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” My thoughts are not formed by the opinions of the world nor by the rhetorical arguments offered by those who are educated in the world. I should have a deep desire to think with the Church for to think with the Church is to think with God. Isaiah the prophet reminds us that God’s thoughts are not the world’s thoughts, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.” (Is 55,8f) In order to think with Christ in God we must set our minds and hearts on higher things. We must look to the heavens and to eternal life as the perspective from which our thoughts are to be formed.
Prayer and sacrament help us to lift up our minds and hearts to the Lord and to listen to the Eternal Word that descends from the Father in the Son. In prayer we practice listening to the Word of God and we develop a listening and discerning heart and mind. “Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God,” St. John Damascene tells us. Therese of Lisieux said, “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” When we pray we allow the Spirit of God to direct our minds and hearts to the heavenly truths of God’s infinite wisdom and we become formed in these truths. Through prayer and sacrament we become united to God the Father in heart and mind. The act of love that is accomplished in prayer helps to form this deep union with Christ in God. A life of prayer is a life of Christ.
In the world we find a lot of “diabolic” thought. The word diabolic comes from the Greek that means through separation and division. The thought of the world is diabolic because it creates division rather than union. In the world people think and express their own opinions. Much of the world’s thought is based upon a subjectivism of thought and a hardness of heart and creates arguments and enmity with others. To think with the mind of Christ is to form our thoughts on objective truths that have been revealed to us in our faith. Subjective thinking is subject to being tainted by our selfish and sinful nature while thinking with Christ in the Church is purified by God’s grace and love. Paul encourages us in his letter to the Philippians, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil 4,8f) My friends, put on Christ every day and allow him to live in you.