"Transforming Minds"
August 23, 2023, 6:00 AM

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment… Romans 12: 2-3

Perhaps this passage explains better than any other why St. Francis wore a plain brown habit that was covered over and over again with patches. He came from a family that sold expensive cloth to make clothes. St. Francis certainly could have made an effort to wear something more fashionable and upscale. However, as his mind was transformed, he could only comprehend living in the world of the good, the acceptable, and the perfect. In other words, St. Francis lived totally in the real world as God sees it.

Fashion seems to be one of the central fixations of our culture. It shapes our desires and permeates our habits as we buy designer jackets, pants, shoes, boots, outerwear, perfumes, accessories, cellphones, cars, boats, houses, and even vacations. We want to look good! And, many times, we do look good.

The issue for God is that God wants us to look good too, but not in our way of thinking about the world. In God’s sight, conformity is temporary. This is what Paul is articulating when he warns us not to be “conformed to this world.” Styles change and times change. The things that we financially long for, save for, and finally purchase, ultimately end up being something that we no longer find fashionable. They become outdated. Our response to something that is outdated is to begin another tiring journey of finding the next fashionable thing. For St. Francis, wearing the same old brown habit took him out of the fashion seeking cycle. Smart guy!

Breaking our conformity to the world is a tough undertaking. It’s like breaking an addiction. God knows that, and God gives us an answer. In doing so, God does not sugarcoat it. We need to move beyond conformity to the culture in order to find what we really seek, which is a stable, solid connection with God based on actions that are good, acceptable, and perfect (Christ-like, and not actions of conformity). The only way to acquire those actions is through God renewing our mind. Therein, lies the catch.

Instead of renewing our mind, we often are quick to jump back to our old ways of thinking. We think we know what God wants because that is what we want. It is easy for us to forget what the prophet said about God’s way of thinking, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.” (Isaiah 55:8) We largely pull God down into “our thoughts” and fool ourselves.

The true renewing of our minds can only be done by letting go of our preconceived notions of God and his nature. We do that by immersing ourself in God’s Word. And, then, led in silence and without resistance, we emerge encountering God’s Spirit without the trappings of our preconceived notions.

God has a history of speaking in new and wonderful ways through silence. In silence, our minds are transformed and renewed by God’s Spirit. We venture out knowing that the freshness of God will fill our mind to see what is acceptable to God alone. Filled with God’s Spirit, we then seek to participate in God’s view of the good, acceptable, and the perfect.

Prayers and Blessings,

Fr. John