The Spiritual Mind, Part 1
by Fr. Juan Vélez
Blessed Newman teaches that a Christian must examine the motives for his thoughts and actions, and must learn to master his heart, doing things for the right motive which is to obey God’s will.
Those of us who are baptized do not like to think of ourselves as worldly, but do we have a spiritual mind? Blessed Newman begins a sermon titled, “The Spiritual Mind,” with St. Paul’s words: “The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power” (1 Cor. iv. 20). He wishes us to distinguish being a nominal Christian from a disciple of Christ, or one who has received the kingdom ‘in power.’
Throughout the sermon he draws a contrast between those who receive the Gospel in word and those who receive it in power. We discover good thoughts, words and actions in our conduct but we must examine if these are done for the right reason and from a good habit rather than from force of custom. Too often we act just to appear good before others.
Let a person merely reflect on the number and variety of bad or foolish thoughts which he suffers, and dwells on in private, which he would be ashamed to put into words, and he will at once see, how very poor a test his outward demeanour in life is of his real holiness in the sight of God.
Our attendance to public worship is often, Newman points out, “a matter of course because others do so.” Likewise our conduct in the face of temptations is often shaped by the opinions and behavior of those with whom we associate.
We allow external influences to sway our behavior rather than acting upon a good “influence proceeding from the heart.” It is not that we should not think expressly about what is right to do and where our duty lies, but that for us as Christians obedience is the result of acquired good habits.
Newman explains that for a religious man,
It will be natural to him to obey, and therefore he will do it naturally, i.e. without effort or deliberation. It is difficult things which we are obliged to think about before doing them.”
Such a spiritual man would rise early to attend Mass or return home on time for the family dinner without a second thought.
Newman speaks of “mastering our hearts” so that “we no more think of the duty while we obey, than we think how to walk when we walk.” Virtuous acts become natural. They are supernatural, that is, the result of faith, but the whole day becomes one continuous act of obedience to God. “Our will runs parallel to God’s.”
This is what it means to have a spiritual mind, and this is what, as Christians, we should aspire to possess.