Father John Ashfield on Philippians 2:1-11

Hi everyone. Father John here. Blessed Palm Sunday to all of you and a beginning to the holy week.

The reading I’m talking about is Philippians chapter two, verse one to 11. And the bit which struck me the most out of this reading was verse five and six and seven:

“Having this in mind, have this mind among yourselves, which was in Jesus Christ, having the mind of Christ.”

That’s incredible.

“Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God, a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taken the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

One of the things that strikes me about this passage of St. Paul is that he’s emphasizing that Christ had a mentality, which was the mentality of a servant. And Christ had the possibility and, to a certain extent, we had the possibility as well, but Christ had the possibility to say, “Listen, I’m God. This is what I am and this is what I’m going to remain.”

And Christ remained God. Christ remained Christ, no doubt about that. But he accepted a way of life and a state of life and an existence which was far from that of God in order to draw us to himself in order to encounter humanity.

And I think we’ve got to stay with that as Christians. We’ve got to stay with the fact that we’re missionaries – that we’re sent into this world, yes, to remain interiorly with God, but not to create a surrounding around ourselves, which is so protected and godly that we’re miles away from the people we’re sent to.

So, what I’m saying, maybe in not the clearest of ways, is that Christ accepted a kind of poverty. The mentality of Christ was that his mission drew him and led him to accept the kind of poverty in his life, and the ultimate poverty of being obedient unto death – death on the cross – in order to encounter us and in order to find us to find the lost sheep.

It reminded me as I was reading this of the Dismus, the Good Thief on the cross. There’s this beautiful detail in John’s gospel where John says “Christ was crucified between two thieves”, and then he repeats himself. He kind of says “Christ was crucified between two thieves, him in the middle and them on each side”. He kind of says the same thing in two different ways, but actually the word in Greek is him in the middle, them to the left and right, and him – he was among them.

So Christ was crucified between two thieves – the physical description – and then he says “each, one on each side of him, and him in their midst. He was among them”, and how far Christ went, how far Jesus went to be in the midst of broken humanity.

Just incredible. And that’s the mentality of Christ. I think that’s what St. Paul’s talking about here, is that, yes, Christ could have said the state, which corresponds to me the best, the most fitting state is the Heavenly one with my Father, in a heavenly setting. And I guess as Christians, we could say the thing which fits us most is a religious setting. And that’s what we need for ourselves. We need religion. We need our prayer life. We need our spiritual life, but we are also called to accept the poverty of the missionary situations around us in order to encounter people like the good thief, people like Mary Magdalene, people like … well, you can continue.

So accepting this with the mentality of Christ, with the mindset of Christ who did this, emptying himself, taking the form of a servant.

I think there’s an incredible joy to be found there as followers of Christ. There’s incredible joy to be found in just having that interior, one-on-one with God, with the Father, and then going into all kinds of different situations in our world in order to bring Christ to people and bring people to Christ.

So, just a few simple thoughts there for you. I hope that could be of some use, and well, let’s stay united in prayer, and especially during the Holy Week.

Pray for many blessings on you all during this week. God bless.

First broadcast onĀ The Sunday Eucharist on March 24, 2024.

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