St. Paul writes from prison to the young church in Philippi words of encouragement and hope, even as he himself is in chains:
“Don’t fret or worry; instead of worrying, pray… Let God know about your concerns.” [The Message]
And here we are in our time. We go on day to day coping as best we can with Covid 19 and all it entails, seeing the terrible effects of this pandemic across the country, particularly in Long-term Care Homes, watching our governments trying to keep our economy afloat. In the face of this gloomy time we have recently seen some horrific examples of police brutality and rampant racism perpetrated on our fellow human beings. If ever we needed encouragement it’s now, a reminder that our God is bigger than all our concerns, so let us pray!
But Paul goes on to exhort the Philippians to take charge of their own feelings, to choose how they will respond to their situation, to decide what to think about. To them, and to us, he says:
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable— if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Yes, there’s a lot going wrong in our lives right now, a lot that we don’t have control over, but we DO have control over our thoughts. We can choose what to think about, what we dwell on or mull over in our free time. We can let the bad news dominate our thoughts or we can choose to take in what we need to know and then turn to something more positive and life-giving, something inspiring, like the qualities mentioned by Paul.
So I’d like to suggest we take some time during the week to study the list above and look at our own situation in light of the ideals Paul suggests, as a guideline for our thought patterns. We could ask ourselves what is true in my life? Who do I consider to be noble? What is lovely? Whom do I admire? What is excellent, worthy of praise? There are examples of all these qualities in everyday life if we look for them. The point is to reorient our thought patterns from negative to positive, to deliberately choose to think about the good rather than the bad.
Earlier on in this passage we find words that are familiar to us in our liturgy, a blessing and a promise, that God’s love is where we find our greatest strength to overcome our deepest fears and darkest thoughts:
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Now there’s a thought that could occupy my mind for eternity!