God In Your Mind

July 05 2017 | by

ON SEPTEMBER 30, 2015, the New York Daily News published an article on the results of a Bluetooth poll of 1,000 USA citizens, asking them to name their most prized possessions. More than 60 percent of the women listed photos as their most prized possession, with jewelry in second place. For men, photos took third place with houses, cars, or other vehicles as their most prized possessions.

What makes a possession valuable? Forty percent of men and 19 percent of women said they valued a possession because they worked hard to get it. Nevertheless, 40 percent of the respondents valued their possession because of its sentimental, not monetary, value. If men lost their prized possessions, 44 percent would buy replacements, but 60 percent of women would cry.

However, if there were a house fire, pets and family were safe, and the person could select only one item to save, most people would save their photos, although men were equally likely to grab their favorite technological device. As for the most wished-for possession, women chose a house while men chose a car.

This article reveals that possessions of USA residents are unlike those of people in underdeveloped nations who have no technology, photos, or valuable jewelry. These people would likely value most highly their utensils for daily life, tools for earning a living, or a religious or sentimental artifact.  


Book of Tobit


If Saint Anthony had been polled, we might suspect that his most valuable possession would be a book of Scripture, his sermon notes, or his own devised concordance. However, he does tell us what his most valuable possession is, and it’s none of these: Anthony’s greatest possession was God.

St. Anthony develops this theme in his sermon notes for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost. Anthony begins by examining the Book of Tobit in Scripture. Tobit possessed his eyesight, but lost it. Because he lost his eyesight, he lost his ability to earn money. Tobit sent his son Tobias to recoup money from a relative, entrusting the boy to the care of a previously unknown kinsman who said that he could bring the boy safely home. We have here two possessions that were lost – Tobit’s eyesight and income – and a third possession that could have been lost, his son Tobias. Before Tobit sends off his son, he gives him some advice which St. Anthony notes: “All the days of thy life have God in thy mind, and take heed thou never consent to sin, nor transgress the commandments of our God (Tob 4.6).”

St. Anthony focuses on the one possession that cannot be taken away by blindness, financial hardship, or death. “O words sweeter than honey and the honeycomb: Always have God in thy mind! O mind that has God, blessed above all blessedness, happy above all happiness! What is lacking to you? What can be added to you? You have all things, having him who made all things, who alone fills you and without whom all that is, is nothing. Therefore, always have God in your mind” (Sermons for Sundays and Festivals II, p. 403, Edizioni Messaggero Padova).


Give me your mind


Occasionally we find a possession or receive it as a gift. However, most possessions come with a cost. Someone had to make or earn them. Sometimes we inherit what someone else made or earned. Anthony sees Tobit’s advice as a legacy. “See what a testament Tobit drew up for his son, what a legacy he left him! Always have God in your mind.”

Such a legacy causes Anthony to wonder. He questions God. “O possession that possesses all things, blessed is he who possesses you, happy he who has you! Oh God, what can I give, that I may possess you? Do you suppose that if I gave everything there is, I would be able to have you? What price could I offer for you? You are higher than heaven, deeper than hell, wider than the earth and broader than the sea. How then can a worm, ‘a dead dog, a single flea’ [cf. 1Kg(sm) 24.15] a son of man, have you?” (Sermons II, p. 403).

Anthony then lists highly valuable possessions of his time, comparable to today’s money or jewelry: silver, dyes, gems, gold. Immediately he understands: “O Lord God, I do not have these things, so what must I give to have you?” (Sermons II, p. 403). In other words, You, God, are priceless. All riches combined would not cover God’s value. Nevertheless, by giving himself as the price of our salvation, Christ has something to say about what price God asks of us.

“‘Give me yourself,’ he says, ‘and I will give you myself. Give your mind and you will have me in your mind. Keep all your possessions for yourself, just give me your mind. I am full of your words; I have no need of your deeds: just give me your mind’” (Sermons II, pp. 403-4).


No distraction


Tobit told his son to “Always have God in your mind.” Our mind, like our heart, is difficult to control. It is easier to abstain from food or actions than it is to keep our mind or heart fixed on God. Tobit’s advice is especially difficult because he uses the word ‘always.’ “Always have God in your mind.” Not sometimes, or when you pray, or when you go to church, but ‘always.’ How can we do that?

Anthony presents a solution, one we may not have considered. “Do you want to have God in your mind always? Then have yourself always before your mind’s eye. Where your eye is, there is your mind.” (Sermons II, p. 404). We know that this is true because we are so often distracted by what we see. Anthony is telling us not to get distracted.

We know that God made us. We are his creatures, not our own. Therefore, if we keep our self in our mind, we are looking at a creation of God. We need to see God in our self, because he’s there. He’s there in who he made us to be, not in who we want to be or who we pretend to be, because these are selves that we create. God is in who we really are. Anthony puts it this way: “So if you see yourself, you have God in yourself. Do you want to have God always in your mind? Be just as he made you to be. Do not go seeking another ‘you.’ Do not make yourself otherwise than he made you. Then you will always have God in mind.” (Sermons II, p. 404)


Way to peace


If we keep our eye on our self, won’t we become self-absorbed? Definitely, if we have no faith in God. Then we can become dissatisfied with who we are and pretend that we’re someone we’re not, even to the point of trying to fit into the crowd or to changing our gender or to saying we aren’t ready to be a mother when, in fact, we already are one if we are pregnant. People whose most important possessions are fame or popularity, acceptance or financial stability, independence or power, have overlooked the most valuable possession – God Himself. Anthony is right. If we possess God, if we keep God always in mind, the disorder of our life will disappear and God will show the way to peace.

Updated on July 05 2017