By Rhonda Ortiz
“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
I love this verse. I struggle with anxiety and scruples in my religious and moral life, and following St. Paul’s advice to renew my mind has been key to battling them.
Why? Part of what fuels my anxieties are my misunderstandings. For many years my mind and heart would tangle up in knots over minor religious or moral minutiae that the Church herself actually hadn’t weighed in on.
We all want to be innocent of sin—like the Infant Christ or the Holy Innocents, whose martyrdom we celebrate today. But sometimes our anxieties about sin cloud our understanding of the moral life.
I finally learned to go to the source—the Catechism—for the answers to my concerns and discovered, if not the answers I sought, a greater promise of true Christian freedom. When the Church does give specific guidelines, it’s for the sake of a life free from sin and free for God.
The fact is, we can’t always find black-and-white answers for our every concern. Situations vary. Mother Church knows this and, instead of weighing in on every possible peccadillo, encourages us to use our intellect, our free will, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit to make good decisions.
God knows that we will not always make “perfect” decisions. Yet He will honor our decisions so long as we do our best, renewing our mind and then acting upon our understanding. His grace works powerfully through our faithful intentions.
So how do we renew our mind? Some suggestions:
Read the Bible.
- Read the Catechism. It’s an amazing and beautiful document, full of hope for eternal life with Christ. Make it a regular part of your reading.
- Read Church documents.
- Ask questions of your spiritual director. It’s amazing what an outside perspective provides!
- Read the writings of the saints, especially those whose lives radiate the joy we anxious people sometimes lack. Learn from them.
- Practice freedom. Make positive decisions that might not be habitual for you and see what happens. For some of us, that might include things like saying no to someone or something. For others, it might be giving ourselves permission to do something fun that most people do without sinning. If you notice a behavior in yourself that “isn’t working” and is causing you and others grief, try something different.
- Examine your fears. What are you afraid of and why? How can God’s perfect love drive those fears away?
- Learn something new. It can be anything—doesn’t have to be specifically Church-related. All truth is God’s Truth, no matter where it comes from.
- Give others a chance. Sometimes our first impressions of others are wrong (I’m definitely guilty of this). Let yourself be wrong!
- Ask your Guardian Angel to assist you in gaining purity of mind and heart. I am a big fan of my Guardian Angel. Remember, the angels are pure spirit and pure intellect. They are wonderful guides for us as we work to clear the muddle from our minds.
- Pray. Let the Holy Spirit guide you.
And so on. We have many opportunities to renew our minds. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He wants us to walk with Him in freedom. And that means continual conversion and exercising discernment. If He gave us a top-down answer for every problem, we’d never have the opportunity to learn how to apply the Church’s guidelines to our individual situations. These are opportunities to stretch our minds and grow in maturity. Our intellect is His gift to us. Let us renew our minds in the light of His grace.
About the Author:
Rhonda Ortiz writes on topics of faith, culture, and family across the web. She also writes Scripture for the Scrupulous, a weekly newsletter providing guided meditations for battling scruples, perfectionism, and anxiety in the spiritual life. Follow her work at www.rhondaortiz.com.