Those who read last week’s post know I have some unfinished business. I made some big assertions in that post. I said Jesus learned. I said his mind changed and grew during his life on earth. I said the mind of Christ is, in a sense, not the same thing as the mind of God.
Today I try to back up those assertions and close out this reflection on the mind of Christ. Close it out by saying, yes, it is possible to say with St. Paul: “We have the mind of Christ.”
Let’s pick up Hebrews 5:8-9. Paul is speaking of Jesus, when he writes:
“Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”
Jesus learned obedience from what he suffered; note that. Paul also speaks of Jesus being made perfect through his experience. Paul is speaking of the Passion here. He says Jesus learned obedience through his Passion and it made him perfect. Jesus’ Passion (his suffering and death) brought him to his telos, to the purpose for which he came into existence.
How could Jesus have learned obedience through the Passion? Was he not already obedient? Do we not have evidence that he obeyed Mary and Joseph as a child, that he embraced the Father’s will during his years of active ministry?
I suppose what Paul means is that Jesus learned the fullest expression of obedience through his Passion. In other words, the Passion constituted for Jesus an experience, in his humanity, of trusting the Father with everything; with the loss of everything; the sacrifice of everything. Trusting him through rejection; trusting him through a criminal’s sentence; trusting him through the whipping and the lashes he received from the soldiers; through the piercing of the woven thorns upon his head, through the carrying of the heavy, wooden cross along dusty streets; through the jeering of the crowds, the cruel blows of the nails in wrists and feet; through the hours of hanging there, like a criminal, humiliated, asphyxiated, bleeding; through being mocked by a thief who shared his fate. Going through all these experiences, and still being surrendered to the Father in love, still forgiving those who were responsible. Still believing in a kingdom of righteousness, still handing over his spirit in love and trust to the Father.
In his humanity, Jesus had not learned this dimension of obedience until that point. Until that kenosis, that emptying of self. Not until he lived through his Passion.
He learned. In this way, his human nature was brought to its telos. In this way, Jesus was perfected, through his Passion, in a way he was not before it. Through his Passion, Jesus fulfilled in himself the divine Words of the sign of Isaac, the Lamb of God, the Suffering Servant. He became, in his human nature, the true High Priest who makes unto the Father a sacrifice capable of redeeming every human sin. This all became true; these divine Words became flesh in Jesus in a new and perfect way through his Passion. What Jesus knew in his divine nature, he lived in his human nature through the Passion. The Word became flesh, in its fullest sense, through the Passion.
The Mind of an Infant
In all this we are trying to get at: What is the mind of Christ? Fr. Patrick Reardon comes at this idea from a different angle:
“What,” he asks, “did Jesus think about, as an infant in the manger?”
Did he think about the prophets? Moses? The creation of the universe? The intricacy of the earth’s atmosphere? The Father’s plan for human redemption?
“He didn’t think about anything” is Reardon’s reply. Didn’t think about anything because he was an infant. The Logos became flesh in a human being. Which means he began life as an infant, with an infantile mind. A mind that would grow over time, as all minds do. As Jesus’ mind grew, up to and through his Passion.
This is good news. It means Paul did not exaggerate. We too can have this mind of Christ in us, even now. For the mind of Christ is a mind that is human but wholly abandoned, obedient and receptive to the light of the Spirit. A mind that grows in wisdom before God and before men, as we go through the experience of our life on earth.
This mind was in Jesus. Paul had this mind. Do you?