We have these words in the gospel today according to Matthew, chapter 16:
“But he [Jesus] turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.'”
One might perhaps sympathize with Peter, who earlier in the chapter, as read last week, was the recipient of divine revelation, the man of insight, the Rock, and who this week is called “Satan,” by the same Jesus and told to get behind, get in line. Whether one sympathizes in this case in the petrine direction or not, Jesus’ words quoted above seem to do more than imply Jesus’ direction that we human beings are in fact able – and expected! – to set our minds not on human things, but on divine.
His words also make clear, as I suspect most of us would admit, that our default setting is indeed to think in human ways, to set our mind on human things. In this particular case, to do so would seem, according to Peter’s example, to shy away from both the possibility and the reality of suffering – either for ourselves or for those whom we love. And yes, humanly this shying away does seem to be reasonable.
Yet Jesus makes it apparent that in this and other affairs, both our possibility and our call is to begin to think divinely! That is, to set our mind on divine things.
How to do this?
Paul’s words in the second verse of his twelfth chapter of the letter to the church at Rome seems to point the way:
“Do not conform to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (NIV). Or, as Eugene Peterson’s rendering puts it in The Message: “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.”
Peterson is on to something I think. To think as we automatically do, as humans, is in effect to ‘not think’ at all. It is simply to go along. To me, this in turn points to the idea that to think divinely, to set our minds on things divine, is somehow to do more, It is perhaps, as the Eastern traditions would say – and with them them mystical traditions of the West – to be mindful, to live life alive and aware of reality around us, of the meaning of our actions, of the words we speak and hear, of the miraculous persons with whom we share our days.
Perhaps today we can hear this invitation – demand? – of Jesus anew, and with Peter begin to open ourselves already, now, to the fact that more than human reality is already happening in and around us.