Chapter 4 – A Pure Mind and Simple Intention
A Pure Mind and Simple Intention
IV A Pure and Simple Mind (click to download pdf)
“By two things,” says The Following of Christ, “is man lifted above earthly things, viz., by simplicity and purity. Simplicity must be in the intention, purity in the affection.”
“What kind of birds are those, papa?” asked a little girl of her father, as they were going across a meadow.
“Those birds are called buzzards,“ answered the father.
“How nicely they are soaring in a ring, and how quietly they fly! One cannot see them move their wings.”
“See, how they are gradually lowering themselves toward that forest. Pretty soon they will have reached the tops of the trees.”
“What are they coming down for? Do they want to rest in the trees?”
“Sometimes they may want to rest,” replied the father; “but generally it is not for that purpose that they come down. God created these birds to be very useful. Wherever the buzzards find the carcass of an animal, they will settle down on it to eat it up. Generally a half dozen or more will gather to devour the carrion together. From this you can judge of what great benefit the buzzard is to us. Those seven or eight we have just seen are now probably engaged at this work—eating up the putrid remains of some animal.”
Like the buzzard or the eagle, my dear little followers of Jesus, we ought to soar up on high, and raised thus above the earth and all that is earthly, keep moving in the pure atmosphere of God’s love. That is, our minds must be pure; our hearts must be free from all inordinate affection for the world or for ourselves.
Oh yes, most certainly we all desire this—to be thus soaring high up in God’s love, with pure hearts, unsullied by sin. We often wish we could sit on top of some light, floating cloud, and thus from on high look down upon the bogs and swamps, deserts and wastes, and the beautiful countries, towns, and cities, rivers, seas, and lakes of the earth. But, alas, we are kept tied down to the earth. Here we must work, eat, drink, and sleep away one third of our life, more or less. Like the buzzard that soars down its airy height to do the lowest thing even a brute can do feed on carrion, so we sometimes feel as if we were drawn down from the blissful height of God’s love and friendship to the mean and contemptible things of the earth.
But patience, my dear readers! We cannot go away from the earth yet, not until God calls us. We must work, eat, drink, and sleep, and suffer trials and hardships for many years yet, perhaps; God wants it so. And here now is where the simplicity of intention comes in. We must do as St. Paul says: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all things for the glory of God.” This must be our “simple intention.” While we are in this world and must busy ourselves with it, we must, as St. Paul says again, “use this world as if we used it not; ‘ that is, we must not let ourselves be attached to it, so as to forget rod and our eternal salvation.
You know there are so many, very many, who do this. They live only for this world, as if they had to stay here forever. Some think only of eating and drinking; when they are done with breakfast they speak already of dinner; hardly have they finished dinner when they already think and make plans about supper. Others there are who live only for money; to earn it, they work and drudge day and night ; and when they have it, instead of using it to satisfy their wants and procure the comforts of life, or to do good with it amongst their fellow-men, they pile it up, and hide it, and watch it most carefully.
How much more prudent the followers of Jesus are in this respect! Their simple intention is to use the world only in as far as they have to do, and as God wills. Their hearts they keep free. While with their bodies they are on earth, they are soaring on high with God in the purity of their minds and the love of their hearts. Yes, the things they make use of in the world will be a help to them in raising themselves up to God. As mean and insignificant as a thing may be, look at it aright, examine it, study it you will find it can teach you something about the goodness, mercy, justice, or power of God. Very appropriately, therefore, does Thomas a Kempis say: ” There is no creature so little and so vile that it showeth not forth the goodness of God.”
Let us do as Holy Scripture admonishes: “Love not the world, nor those things which are in the world. Mind the things that are above, not the things that are on the earth.” We may use what we must of the world, as God desires it, for the honor and glory of God, for the welfare of our souls. This shall be our “simple intention.” We will keep ourselves free from sin, mindful that we are ever walking in God’s presence. This is the “purity of mind.” How beautiful and true are these words of The Following of Christ: “As iron cast into the fire loses its rust, and becomes all bright with burning, so the man that turneth himself whollv to God is divested of all sloth and changed into a new man.”