Christians have a different mind. I do not say that we a different way of thinking. Nor do I say that we simply have a different theology or a different philosophy. We have a different mind. As St. Paul says, we are called to “put on the mind of Christ.” By saying we have a different mind I am saying that Christian belief causes our entire psyche, our entire emotional world, to change to match that of Jesus Christ. St. Paul go on to tell us to “put on Christ” and to be “conformed to Christ.” And if you have gone through a conversion experience part of that experience for you has been a change of mind. If your conversion experience has been a radical experience you know that “one way I used to be now I am no longer that way.” And for those of you who have not yet had that conversion experience I am encouraging you to pray for it. Whether you are a cradle Catholic or a recent convert, there is a mind of Christ that we need to put on.
And the mind of Christ that we have has been formed because of the Resurrection of the Body. When Jesus was raised from the dead, humanity understood itself in a totally new way. Without the resurrection of the dead we would be the “most foolish of people.” It is only because Jesus is raised from the dead that we live with the promise of a different type of hope. Jesus, not only raised from the dead, but today, as we celebrate the Ascension, he has also been ascended bodily into heaven and even now sits physically at the right hand of the Father. There is a bodily resurrection. And our entire mentality and psyche is changed because of that. We have an instinct of eternal life as a Christian that those who do not belong to the Christian dispensation do not have. This different mind often times comes into conflict with the structures of the world that around us.
There are some who accuse Christians, either rightly or wrongly, that because we have this future hope of a resurrected body that we stop working for the betterment of this world. So vehement can this be throughout the history of the Church that it is not uncommon that secularized governments take over they violently, even murderously, close monasteries and convents. We can also see this attitude in comments like Karl Marx when he calls religion “the opiate of the Masses” this indicates that this Christian hope is seen as phantasmal to the secular mind. We as Christians live in the hope of the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. This hope, far from causing us to flee this word, cause us to realize what our duty is now. Yes, we know there is a life to come and that this current life is not everything that we are called to have. But that does not mean that we are free from responsibility of making this world better.
Remember, Jesus Christ lived thirty-three years on the face of the earth, serving people for thirty years silently as the Son of a carpenter. He lived the dignity of work. He exercised charity toward his neighbor. He regularly visited the temple as an observing Jew. Jesus himself dignified our current human life, by himself being human and living as humans live. We have a responsibility to bring the Christian hope that we bear into every sector of our society. And if a person believes that he is Catholic by going to Mass on Sunday but not talking about the faith for the rest of the week, that person is sorely mistaken. Our Christian hope affects every element of our life: where we work, where we live, how we raise our children, how we think about ourselves, how we vote, the kind of medical choices we make, the kind of understanding we have about beginning life issues and end of life issues. Our human bodies, resurrected in the Body of Christ Jesus, means that our bodies now bear a human dignity. Therefore we fight for human rights, we fight for the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death, we fight for social structures that uphold that human dignity, and we stand against those social structures that rob people of their human freedoms. Because of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead we are not somehow absconded from the responsibility of playing our full role as citizens. Rather, we have greater responsibility of protecting people through our Christian values because those values point to an eternal kingdom that, after having made this world better, will always point to the one world where we will be made perfect. This world will not be made perfect.
And there are two different extremes whereas Catholics we can fail at playing our full role as citizens. One way we can fail at this is by pretending that God is going to take care of this on his own. Because we have a value of understanding what grace is, that grace conquers all, and that without grace we can do nothing. Often times Christians will think, “If I just pray about it things are going to get better.” Or “I do have to “do” anything because grace itself will accomplish what it needs to do.” This is actually a heresy called Quietism. Quietism has the attitude that “if I set here long enough, God will get it done.” No God has made us cooperators in his grace. There is a phrase that is important to know: grace builds on nature. In other words, God has gifted you with gifts and talents, so that you yourself can cooperate with his grace in bringing about human dignity and life according to Jesus Christ. You are talented people. There is no excuse for us not to apply our talents to the message of the Gospel while we live in this life. Praying about it can actually be an act of avoidance, or cowardice, because we don’t want to really step on the front line and “get it done.” I’m not saying prayer is useless, on the contrary, we can’t do anything without prayer. We have to cooperate with Grace. But grace does not take away from us the responsibility of doing what we can with the gifts of God to bring about a better society.
So on one extreme there is the idea that if we just pray about it this God who raised Jesus from the dead and ascended bodily into heaven will bring about a better world on his own time. Jesus never said that. He has commissioned us to go out into the world and preach the Good News. He’s commissioned us to do something to make this world a better place.
But there is another side of our society that is more dangerous for us Catholics living in America. And it is this: we no longer hope in Jesus Christ, or hope in grace. In fact, many people are more concerned about their insurance plan than they are about the state of their soul. And that is a serious problem. Many people keep closer account of the coins they put in the bank then they do about the grace they can acquire in their soul. And this is a serious problem. If a person is more concerned about the financial and political structures of society and less concerned about the God who has conquered this world, then that person is out of balance. Because, you see, this is placing our hope in human progress.
Going to the opposite extreme of relying solely on grace we think that grace has no place in human development. The thought is “as long as we just progress” or “as long as we achieve more” then we will be fine. We apply this thought to financial progress: how many people are more concerned about the national debt then we are about the debt owed due to our sins? This can concern political progress: how many Catholics are more identified with their political parties than they are with the their identity as a Christian. This can concern science, as if scientific progress will always be favorable. We assert a certain infallible mindset to scientific advancement and apply a certain evolutionary ‘survival of the fittest’ expectation to scientific progress. As a culture we have taken the theory of evolution and applied to the concept of human progress, as if everything will just get better and weak or inadequate structures simply fall away. We think human structures will follow the same pattern, as if financial, political or scientific advancement will always progress toward human fulfillment. But we need to remember the atom bomb is product of science. And Hitler and Stalin ascended into power through political parties. Our American culture has ascribed to this ‘blind trust’ that mere progress is going to save the human person. Or that ‘change for the sake of change’ is going to better the human person. But this is wrong. Many have attitude that “If I work hard than I will have the happiness I desire to achieve.” “If I save my money, or have the right 401k, then I can be at peace about my future.” But your 401k will not forgive your sins. Your bank account does not deposit grace so that you can acquire the salvation of Jesus Christ. Only Jesus Christ will save. No amount of progress in this will can go back in time to save history. Only Jesus Christ can redeem history. No amount of progress in science will raise a body from the dead. Only Jesus Christ can raise bodies from the dead.
Our experience of the Ascension today changes the Christian mind. And our mind is this: our bodies will participate in the eternal life to come so long as we cooperate with the grace offered to us in Jesus Christ. That puts a burden on us. The burden to enrich this world with the message of the Gospel and to live in a hope that perfect fulfillment is attainable only in the life to come. This causes us to evaluate our lives. Do we really believe that Jesus Christ is our savior through grace? Do we play our full role as citizens working to better society for full human dignity? Or do we put more hope in the political, financial or scientific structures of our lives? Today Jesus has ascended bodily into have: have you allowed that to change your mind?