"Prepare your minds for action." [1 Pe 1:13]
Many years ago, I was listening to a woman give a Bible study to a group of women. Speaking to the group, she said to them, "Where the mind goes, the man will follow." In saying this, she was speaking about the power of the mind to influence our actions. Whether we want to accept this truth or not, the mind is a battlefield. If Satan can get us in our mind, he has us because he knows that it’s just a matter of time before our footsteps will follow in the direction of our thoughts.
When writing to the Church in his first epistle, Saint Peter instructed the followers of Christ to prepare their minds for action. He wrote this because he recognized that to the extent our minds are focused on spiritual things is to the extent that we will be ready to stand before the Lord when He appears.
Too little attention is paid to the things we expose our minds to in our daily lives. We give no thought to the type of movies we watch, books we read, or music that we listen to. But the more we expose ourselves to earthly things, the more distracted our minds become when it comes to the things of God.
If a man desires to watch a movie, let it be one that will inspire him in his faith. If a man desires to listen to music, let it be music that will cause him to reflect on the things of God, not the things of this world. If a man desires to read books, let him read things that will feed his soul, not just stimulate his mind.
There is much in the way of entertainment that is not necessarily sinful, but neither is it beneficial to one’s soul. I have friends who spend at least three to four hours a day on the Internet reading political articles and then forwarding them on to everybody else. This is four hours that could be spent reading the Scriptures, the Catechism, the lives of the Saints, or some other spiritual book. This is time that could be spent praying and meditating on spiritual things. When I see how much time they spend on the Internet reading about earthly things, I say to myself, "What an incredible waste of time! How is this benefitting their soul, or anyone else's for that matter? How is this preparing them to be ready to stand before the Son of Man!"
This is one of Satan's biggest traps. His goal is to keep our minds distracted from spiritual things, and in this day of modern technology, it’s easier and easier for him to achieve this.
I have found that when I give myself over to earthly things, my mind is no longer on heavenly things. If I spend all of my time reading books that have nothing to do with God, my mind won’t be on God. It's as simple as that. And if my mind isn't on God, I won't feel like praying to Him. And when I don’t pray to Him, I become weak and end up stumbling and sinning against Him. And if I am stumbling and in sin, how will I be prepared to stand before Him when He comes?
In his letter to the Church in Colosse, Saint Paul instructed them as follows: "Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." [Col 3:1-2]. If we are going to put this principle into practice, this is going to require a tremendous amount of discipline on our part. We have to make certain deliberate choices regarding the things that we intend to expose our minds to.
As we draw closer and closer to the Lord in our relationship with Him, the Holy Spirit begins to cut from our lives, not only those things that are sinful and displeasing to God, but those things that distract us from Him as well. He brings us to the point where we no longer have a taste or desire for those things anymore because we've tasted of something better.
When I was in my twenties, I used to smoke cigarettes, but eventually I quit. I haven’t had a cigarette in years, nor do I desire one. The desire for cigarettes has been killed in me. The thought of taking a drag of a cigarette literally causes my stomach to lurch. Likewise, when I was younger, I used to enjoy exposing my mind to all sorts of worldly books, magazines, movies, and music. But through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in my life year after year, God has killed in me any desire for these things.
One day, I came across a book in a book store that I had read when I was 20 years old. Since it had been almost 30 years since I had read the book, I forgot what it was even about. As I leafed through the book, I saw much filthy language and sex in it. I said to myself, "I cannot believe that I used to read such garbage." When I was 20 years old, my mind was still given over to the things of this world. My mind at that time was completely desensitized to things that were offensive to God. I was able to read a book or watch a movie that contained filthy language or sexual scenes in it and not be offended at all.
But as I drew closer to the Lord year after year, and exposed myself to the things of God by reading the Bible, the Catechism, the lives of the Saints, and other spiritual books, the Holy Spirit put to death in me any desire to read anything that was offensive to God or had absolutely nothing to do with Him. Now, when I am exposed to such things, I am repulsed. I can’t even listen to worldly music without feeling drained in my spirit. The things of this world have become foreign to me. I do not know what the latest movies, television shows, or best-selling books are. When people ask me if I've heard So and So's latest songs, I don't even know who the artist is that they're talking about.
God has completely pulled me away from this world and set my heart and mind on things above, where Christ is seated at His right hand. I am a citizen of Heaven; my heart and mind belong there, not on the things of this life. Although we are in the world, we are not of the world, and neither should the things we expose our minds to be of this world.
When I go to Mass, I often see people who are completely bored and not paying any attention to what is going on. They look at their watches. They look around. They chat with one another in the pews. Some simply stare off into space or out the window while the priest is speaking or offering up prayers. Most don’t even pray or participate in the Mass in any way. It is very obvious to me that these people have given themselves completely over to the things of this world all week long. When they come to Mass, because their minds have been on the world all week long, they are not in tune with the Spirit. People whose hearts and minds have been focused on the Lord all week long come to Mass ready to pray, participate, and focus on the things of God.
Brothers and sisters, we need to take this teaching regarding the preparation of one's mind very seriously, for those whose minds are on the things of this world will also live by the standards of this world. It is not possible for a person's mind to be on the things of this world all week long while living for the things of God at the same time. Remember, where the mind goes, the man will follow!
If you are exposing your mind all week long to worldly movies, television shows, books, magazines, and music, you are allowing the standards of this world to completely saturate your mind. The more saturated your mind becomes, the more desensitized to the things of heaven it will become. If your mind is not focused on heaven, how will you be ready to enter it when God calls you from this life? You will not be ready. If Christ returns today, you will be completely caught off guard because your mind was elsewhere and not on Him.
Our churches today are loaded with men and women who call themselves Catholics, yet live by the standards of this world. They live by the standards of this world because they give themselves completely over to the things of this world all week long. Instead of spending an hour in prayer, they spend it watching television. Instead of spending time reading the Bible, they read secular books or useless articles on the Internet that can profit a man's soul nothing. The spirit and soul go starved and neglected all week long while they give their flesh over to the useless distractions of this life. He who exposes himself to the world all week long will live like the world all week long.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes it very clear that those who live by the standards of this world are really living pagan lives, even though they may be Catholic in name. Only those who live their lives according to the standards and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ are true Catholics. If we want to live according to Christ’s standards and teachings, we must let go of every earthly distraction and continually expose ourselves to those teachings so that our lives will line up with them. This is how we prepare our minds for action! This is how we prepare our minds for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ!
People who spend all of their time pursuing the things of this world and then go to Mass on Sunday morning because they believe that this is all that God is really looking for, have been deceived. Their attendance at Mass means nothing to God if He does not have their hearts, souls, and minds all week long. I would rather attend Mass with five true Catholics than attend it with a thousand people who call themselves Catholics but live like pagans in the sight of the Lord. And why do they live like pagans? Because they give their minds over to the things of this world all week long instead of over to the things of God!
If we want to be ready to stand before the Lord Jesus Christ when He returns, our minds must be on Him continually, not on the things of this world. We are living in the last days, brothers and sisters. We cannot afford to allow our minds to become distracted by the things of this world because those distractions will eventually pull us away from our sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
Let us listen to what the Spirit is saying to us through the words of Saint Peter, and let us prepare our minds for action! To the extent that our hearts and minds are focused on things above where Christ is seated at God’s right hand…
…is to the extent we'll be ready to meet Him on the day of His return.
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