Disciplining the Mind
Our world is filled with distractions. Images and information overload our senses. Several tasks demand our attention at the same time. We feel pulled in a dozen different directions, and as a result, we lack peace and concentration and find ourselves falling into a fatigue that often borders on exhaustion.
We might wonder what the Scriptures have to say to us about this very modern problem, but today's second reading from St. Paul's letter to the Philippians actually offers some pertinent advice to help us discipline our minds and cope with our hectic lives.
1. Let go of anxiety. “Have no anxiety at all,” Paul counsels. Many of us probably read that and think, “Yeah, right. No anxiety? With everything I have to do in such a short time?” Paul doesn't leave us hanging; he lets us in on an important secret to help us release our cares and worries: prayer.
2. Pray. Paul prescribes, “...by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” Pray. Pray about everything, big things: small things, important things, unimportant things. Present everything to God. Recite formal prayers, or just talk to God as you would talk to your best friend. Bless and adore God; praise God; thank God for everything and everyone in your life; present your needs and desires, and those of others, to God with confidence that He will always answer your prayers in the way He knows is best for you. Then, Paul says, “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” If we surrender our lives to God in prayer, the intimate communication and relationship that results will significantly diminish our anxiety and stress.
3. Focus on the best things in life. Paul offers a long list of suggestions: “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.” And what is the most true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, and praiseworthy “thing”in existence? God! Therefore, we must keep our minds focused on God above all else. We must, as seventeenth century Carmalite Brother Lawrence often said, practice the presence of God.
When we do these three things, when we, with God's help, discipline our minds by letting go of anxiety, praying, and focusing on the best things in life, especially on God, then, Paul concludes, “the peace of God” will be with us.
Questions for Reflection:
1. How can you apply Paul's advice to your own life and work towards disciplining your mind?
2. Do you trust that God will help you and grant you His peace?
3. What would it feel like to experience the peace of God?