Sermon: Epiphany 5 RCL A – Mind of Christ

The podcast is available here.

Photo by Joshua Eckstein on Unsplash

The local sheriff in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana was looking for a deputy, so Boudreaux – who was not exactly the sharpest nail in the bucket went in to try out for the job.

“Okay,” the sheriff drawled, “Boudreaux, what is 1 and 1?”

“11,” he replied.

The sheriff thought to himself, “That’s not what I meant, but he’s right.”

“What two days of the week start with the letter ‘T’?”

“Today and tomorrow.”

He was again surprised that Boudreaux supplied a correct answer that he had never thought of himself.

“Now Boudreaux, listen carefully: Who killed Abraham Lincoln?”

Boudreaux looked a little surprised himself, then thought really hard for a minute and finally admitted, “I don’t know.”

“Well, why don’t you go home and work on that one for a while?”

So, Boudreaux wandered over to the pool hall where his pals were waiting to hear the results of the interview. Boudreaux was exultant.

“It went great! First day on the job and I’m already working on a murder case!”

The Intelligence Quotient (aka: IQ) can be defined as: “The whole of cognitive or intellectual abilities required to obtain knowledge, and to use that knowledge in a good way to solve problems that have a well described goal and structure.” (Source) Boudreaux I don’t know about, but the average person (68% of us) has an IQ between 85 and 115, and you have to be in the top 2% (IQ ~140 or above) to be admitted into Mensa—think Genius club.  Currently, the youngest member of Mensa is 3, with an IQ of 142.  Are you a genius?  Well, according to one genius, Albert Einstein, you are: “Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” (Source)  

Even though a person has a high IQ, as much as genius level, they can still be an idiot.  High IQ means you can quickly take in large amounts of information and utilize it in the given setting, but wisdom (not being an idiot) is something completely different.  Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, says, “Typically people who can see beyond the information they’ve learned and apply it through analogies to other situations in their life or see other insights from it, those are the people we typically refer to as being exceptionally wise.” (Source)  So, not being an idiot isn’t dependent upon your IQ, it is dependent upon your wisdom.  

Why this talk of IQ, intelligence, and wisdom? St. Paul wrote in his First Epistle to the Corinthians that we read, “Among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age… But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.”  What does that mean for us?

A few weeks ago we wrapped up our study of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.  I had a number of folks say how confusing and difficult it was.  I went to seminary, have access to all these additional resources and even I had to stop and ask, “For the love of all things holy, what in the heck are you talking about?”  The ability to compare and contrast N.T. Wright’s to Gordon Fee’s views of Pauline Christology takes a higher IQ and intelligence than everyone I know, but to say that we are the body of Christ and Jesus is the head of the body, that is something most of us can get our heads around, and can understand, based on the information we have learned about our own bodies.  That is approaching wisdom, but we’re not quite there, because “God’s wisdom” that Paul referred to is our ability to take that and not only know it, but apply it—live it, because intelligence tells me that Jesus is the head, but wisdom directs me—the body—to submit to the mind of Christ instead of my own.  Which leads to one more question: where does that mind of Christ come from and how to we attain it?  St. Paul answers, “We have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.”  Through the Spirit of God, we have received the wisdom of God. As the author of Proverbs states, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6)  We have the ability to understand what God expects of us, just as Jesus understood, because—and this is that mind blowing statement that we read—because “We have the mind of Christ.”  We can know what God expects of us, not because we have some high IQ and understand all things, but because we have the mind of Christ or put another way, we have the same Spirit of God within us that Jesus had in himself.  It is knowledge to be able to say it, but God’s wisdom to believe it, “We have the mind of Christ.”

When Jesus began to teach the things of God, what God expected of us, he spoke of the difference between intelligence in wisdom.  For example: Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.”  “You shall not murder” is intelligence.  It comes from the Book and can be learned, but to take it the next step and apply it to the attitude of the heart is wisdom.

Again, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  To know, “You shall not commit adultery,” is intelligence.  To understand that lusting in your heart is also adultery, that is wisdom.  You’ve taken the information and applied it to your life.

The Israelites were to be the salt of the earth.  They were to ‘season’ this life with God.  God and his teachings were to permeate every aspect of their lives.  They were also supposed to be the light of the world.  They were to draw others to God so that this ‘seasoning’ of God would be a part of others’ lives as well.  Why did Jesus judge the religious leaders—those who were to teach about being salt and light—why did he judge them so harshly?  Because they only taught and practiced ‘intelligence.’  They cared about outward/external things, but not internal, things of the heart.  As Jesus will later say, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.”  Therefore he goes onto say to them, “You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also?”  He wants them to take what they know of God through all their studies and understanding and then apply it, not only to their bodies, but to their hearts and souls as well.  And that message is the same for us, because at the end our Gospel reading, Jesus said to those who were listening, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness—your wisdom—exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Just about anyone can appear to be a ‘good’ Christian, while at the same time have a heart shrouded in darkness.  My friend St. Josemaría Escrivá said that to be like this is not to have the mind of Christ, but the “mask of Christ.” (cf. The Furrow #595)

We have been grafted into the people of God, so we are now also to be the ones who are salt and light.  With the mind of Christ, we are to have wisdom that teaches and guides us, so that others may see our good works—so that others may see God and give glory to our Father in heaven.  To accomplish this, we don’t need a Mensa level IQ, we need the mind of Christ, the wisdom of Christ, which is given to us all through the Spirit of God, for as Paul said, “These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.”  Pray that the mind of Christ, the Spirit of God may enter you more fully and fill you with God’s wisdom.

Let us pray: Loving Father, faith in Your Word is the way to wisdom. Help us to think about Your Divine Plan that we may grow in the truth. Open our eyes to Your deeds, our ears to the sound of Your call, so that our every act may help us share in the life of Jesus. Give us the grace to live the example of the love of Jesus, which we celebrate in the Eucharist and see in the Gospel. Form in us the likeness of Your Son and deepen His Life within us.  Amen.

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