March 22, 2023, 6:00 AM

To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6

St. Francis focused on the Spirit of God that was embedded in nature. He was intimately familiar with the physical world, and death of the flesh was a common observation. Had St. Francis read deeply into the writings of St. Paul in Romans, he may have pondered the phrase, “to set THE MIND on the flesh is death.”

What was Paul really saying? Even if you or I set our minds on God, we are still going to mortally die. This is one of Paul’s many perplexing writings that requires a person to step out on faith, give up preconceived notions, and interpret the passage from Paul’s experience.

While many people today interpret Paul as a theologian (someone who studies God), he was more a “mystic” than a theologian. St. Paul never met Jesus while he walked the earth. His encounter with Christ was in a blinding light on a road while attempting to persecute Christians. That blind spell humbled him.

When Paul regained his sight, he had “new eyes.” Paul’s understanding of life was radically changed. When he wrote, he did so from the perspective of a “mystic” – a person who saw life clearly from a deep, transformative “experience,” and not from the position of a person who was an “intellectual.”

Instead of using the word “flesh” as we use it today, Paul began using the word “flesh” to mean the self or the “ego.” There was no academic discipline of psychology at the time of Paul. No one had a word for the self-centered “ego.” Paul used the closest word that he could think of, and that was the word “flesh.”

Just as “flesh” can be corrupted, so too can be the mind when the mind is focused on one’s self and personal ambition. It is only when the mind is focused on the Spirit (of God), does a person receive life and peace.

Dismissing the “ego” is no easy matter. Transformation occurs only when another type of death occurs and that is the death of the “ego.” Most people would rather die, just a little bit, but not so much that it causes discomfort or anxiety. Yet, there is no such thing as dying without dying completely. Either one is alive or dead. There is no partial death or pseudo death when it comes to abandoning everything to follow Christ.

Sadly, people in our culture would rather hang-on to their self-centeredness and “ego” than fall back onto or into the arms of a loving God. This falling back has a promise of life and peace. It is a place where one can find their True Self – the self that God originally created each of us to be.

Lent offers us another opportunity to die to ourselves and fall into the arms of a loving God. I encourage you to commit to an intentional discipline where quietness and a time of self-reflection is the focus.  And, then look at your watch and tell yourself, "It's time to die to my ego."  

Blessings and Prayers during this Lenten Season,

Fr. John

P.S. If you are having trouble with Paul’s concept of the “flesh,” the next time you read one of Paul’s writings, substitute the word "ego” for the word “flesh.” See what happens.