What does it mean to have the mind of Christ?
Towards the end of his life, under arrest and awaiting trial in Rome, Saint Paul writes a short but powerful letter to the Philippians. Paul’s affection for the Christian community at Philippi is apparent from his opening words. The Philippians were not only Paul’s sons and daughters in the Faith but also his partners in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
At the heart of this letter is Paul’s eloquent hymn of Christ’s total gift of self, the model for Paul’s life. With his words and the example of his life, Paul exhorts the Philippians to have the mind of Christ, to live a life worthy of the Gospel, and, by God’s grace, to gain Christ.
Session 1: Paul and the Philippians
St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians explores the model it provides for working together in partnership to advance the Gospel, the beautiful relationship of mutual love that unites Paul and the church in Philippi, and Paul’s great hymn to Christ in Philippians 2:6-11. This first session begins by looking at the town of Philippi, its first converts, and Paul’s opening words to them in his epistle.
Session 2: Partnership in the Gospel
In this session, we will explore Paul’s circumstances as he writes this letter under house arrest in Rome. We will also look more closely at the relationship between Paul and the Philippians, what Paul describes as their koinonia, or “partnership.” This partnership, with its risks and its rewards, is something into which we are invited to enter as well.
Session 3: Friendship in Christ
Paul reveals how he is able to joyfully share the Gospel despite his imprisonment. He echoes the Old Testament figure of Job, who also suffered despite his innocence and yet believed in his ultimate vindication. Paul then artfully reworks the Greco-Roman ideals of friendship and citizenship, expanding the Philippians’ understanding by calling them to the key virtue of humility, looking first to the interest of others in imitation of Christ.
Session 4: The Mind of Christ
After Paul exhorts the Philippians to live out friendship in Christ, he gives them a blueprint for exactly how to do so. St. Paul wants the Philippians to have the mind of Christ, and he paints a beautiful picture of what this means—a life lived out in humble obedience, emptying oneself for others. If we live this life in imitation of Christ, we will also experience the glory of his exaltation by the Father.
Session 5: Imitatio Christi
In his Letter to the Philippians, Paul paints a vivid picture of how to become more Christ-like. We are not called to strive after holiness in some abstract way, but to do so by imitating Christ—specifically in his sacrificial gift of self. It is a call to pour ourselves out as an offering to God, just as Jesus did on the Cross. Embracing this “loss of all things,” Paul tells us, is the only way to “gain Christ and be found in him” (Philippians 3:8-9).
Session 6: All Things in Christ
Having described Christ’s self-offering and shown himself, Timothy, and Epaphroditus as examples of disciples who model the life of Christ, Paul now calls on the Philippians (and us) to model the life of Christ in their own lives. As St. Paul closes out his letter, we’ll see him reiterate the mindset that the Philippians will need to live out their heavenly citizenship and be true disciples of Christ in the midst of a pagan culture.