The Collect read in church on June 11
O God, from whom all good proceeds: Grant that by your inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by your merciful guiding may do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
These days, Monday Matters offers reflections on the prayers we say in church on Sunday, the collect of the day. We do this based on the conviction that praying shapes our believing, that what we pray forms us. We do this hoping that the prayers we say on Sunday will carry us through the week.
What’s on your mind these days? What occupies the real estate in your brain? Mindful that Rene Descartes said: I think therefore I am, I’m wondering how our thought processes shape our identity. The collect offered yesterday in church (see above) begins with a prayer that we be inspired to think those things that are right. I hear an echo of the various places in scripture where we are challenged to examine the interior life.
Psalm 19 asks that the words of our mouth and the meditations of our heart be acceptable in God’s sight. In a penitential psalm (Psalm 51), we read “Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me.” Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, says it’s all a matter of the heart, that the inner life is the source of either goodness or division. St. Paul said: “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Not a bad checklist. Elsewhere, St. Paul tells readers to have the mind of Christ, the mind of a servant. How would our lives unfold differently this week if we focused on having the mind of Christ?
It’s all a matter of how we are shaping our interior life. How do the books we read, the movies we watch, the social media with which we engage shape our inner life? Do resentments and envy fill our thoughts? Do those thoughts block out lovelier ones? Where do our thoughts go when we have down time? Think about what you think about this week. And take yesterday’s collect as a chance to pray for God’s grace to shape that inner life.
But it doesn’t stop there. Thoughts and prayers are not enough. That’s true not only in our response to the current epidemic of gun violence. It goes to the heart of our faith, as the letter of James says that faith (which can correspond to the interior life) without works is dead. We are meant not only to think those things that are right, but also to do those things that are right, based on the fact that what we think about shapes what we do.
So we pray for God’s merciful guidance in our actions. For some in our tradition, there has been a split between that inward journey and outward expressions of faith. I’m grateful for the ministry of people like Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating and Richard Rohr who have provided guidance in the interweaving of the contemplative life and holy action in the world. The faithful dedication to the inner life gave them strength to work for justice and peace. Richard Rohr described the connection this way: “The effect of contemplation is authentic action. If contemplation doesn’t lead to authentic action, then it remains only navel-gazing and self-preoccupation.” He founded the Center for Action and Contemplation, about which he writes: “The most important word in our Center’s name is not Action nor is it Contemplation, but the word and. We need both action and contemplation to have a whole spiritual journey. It doesn’t matter which comes first; action may lead to contemplation and contemplation may lead to action. But finally, they need and feed each other.”
Returning to the mind of Christ, I refer you to the beautiful hymn found in Philippians 2:5-11. Christ’s saving action came from his own inner life, his inner intention to offer himself to God for us. As his followers, his students, we pray for grace to have that same mind. What might that look like for you this week, to have that mindset? How will it shape your actions?