30 Sep Homily, Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Deacon Blaine Barclay
“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…” The question of course is, what is this ‘one mind’, this one love, the mind of Christ, that we are called to have toward one another? The next verse hits the nail on its head. “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God, as something to be exploited/grasped at/clung to, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave…” In the Incarnation, God empties himself in Christ. This self-emptying, this pouring out of oneself for others, this non-exploiting selfless mindset, where Jesus ‘makes himself nothing’, ‘of no reputation’, as other translations put it. This is at the core of the kind of love that God has. This is ego-less love, a love that does not count the cost. Every good mother or father will understand this love.
The Greek Word translated as ‘mind’, can also be translated as ‘thinking’, ‘mind-set’, a way of looking, ‘understanding’. But it includes love, affection, and feeling, because the word also refers to the region around the heart. So ‘mind’ is deeper and wider than just thinking in any narrow sense of the word. It really sums up your whole way of being in the world, your underlying disposition and way of life. The kind of person that you are. Not just our head, but the heart also. What does Pascal say? ‘The heart has its reasons that reason knows not of’.
The verse concludes with the phrase “Taking the form of a slave”. John’s gospel version of the last supper teaches us the same lesson. Jesus sets aside his glory as the only begotten Son, puts a towel around his waist, and makes himself the slave of all. He didn’t just say it, he lived it, right down to the bottom of being a slave. “He humbled himself even further…death on a cross”, our reading says. A slave’s death, stripped of your personhood and your dignity. A Self-emptying death, designed to cancel out the identity of the one being crucified.
This is not the end for Jesus or for us. It is precisely in God’s total embrace of our absolute poverty, of our universal condition of slavery, and dusty death, that leads to glory. “Therefore, God highly exalted him and gave him the name above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”.
“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…” “The same mind, having the same love”. Compassionate love, humble consideration of others, without conceit, without ego. This is not easy; it is impossible without grace. Just when you think you are making progress; the idol of ego rears its ugly head again. And here is the connection with our gospel. When we fall, fail, and refuse to love. God will give us the courage to change our mind and heart, just like the brother in our gospel who although he first said ‘no’, did the will of his father.