In today’s gospel Jesus lists the evils that can come out of the human heart: “unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice deceit,” etc. How does evil get in there in the first place? By letting in the wrong kind of thoughts.
Way back in the second century Marcus Aurelius Antonius noted, “Our life is what our thoughts make it.” Norman Vincent Peale said, “Change your thoughts and your change your world.”
The British philosopher, James Allen, said, “Good thoughts bear good fruit, bad thoughts bear bad fruit — and man is his own gardener.” As our own gardener, we need to take charge of our thoughts.
In our first reading Moses is in effect telling his people to let their thoughts be about the statutes and decrees of God. Our responsorial psalm reminds us that the one “who thinks the truth in his heart” will live in the presence of the Lord. St. James tells each of us today to “humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you…” So reading, reflecting on and studying Sacred Scripture is the first step to care for our thoughts.
The second step is to follow St. Paul’s advice to the Philippians. “Whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
One day a Jamaican grandfather was talking to his grandson about his inner turmoil. He confided, “I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is the vengeful, angry, violent one. The other wolf is the loving, forgiving, compassionate one.” The grandson asked him, “Which wolf will win the fight, Grandpa?” The grandpa paused for a moment, then said, “The one I feed.”
If we feed our minds with the Word of God and with thoughts of the beauty that surrounds us, we too will live in the Lord.
Fr. Alan Phillip, C.P. is a member of the Passionist Community at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California. http://www.alanphillipcp.com/