Right thoughts, right words, right action

Rather than write a post about how I’m going to take up blogging again (and then not take up blogging again, again), I’m just going to write a blog post about something substantive: this Sunday’s second reading at Mass, from the end of St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

In August of 2013, Franz Ferdinand released an album “Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action” which had a few singles that got a lot of radio time. One was “Right Thoughts”, which repeated the album title several times as a sort of chorus. Oddly enough, that song popped into my mind as I prepared to lector this Sunday morning at my parish. The first reading from Isaiah 5, containing the “friend’s song concerning his vineyard,” and Psalm 80 relate perfectly to Christ’s parable of the vineyard from Matthew 21; but, as is often the case, the merely sequential second reading struggles to find a place between the three. It tends to be overlooked come homily time.

Philippians 4 has no clear theme of harvest and justice, no metaphor of a vineyard. But it speaks of the nature of a well-tended vine, and of the attitude of its just tenants. The vineyard of the Lord should be a peaceful one, and it should be tended by those whose minds are concerned with excellence (in terms of truth, honor, justice, purity, love, grace, and praise) and whose actions are directed by the examples of the saints who have worked before them. The tenants will then not only enjoy the peace of the vineyard, they will enjoy the presence of the God of peace Himself. Note the miniature chiasm, or at least inversion of phrase, in verses 7 and 9: “the peace of God” … “the God of peace”.

[6] Brothers and sisters:
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
[7] Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

[8] Finally, brothers and sisters,
whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious,
if there is any excellence
and if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.
[9] Keep on doing what you have learned and received
and heard and seen in me.
Then the God of peace will be with you.

As for the Franz Ferdinand song, this reading highlights “right words” (that is, words of prayer), “right thoughts” (dwelling on excellence), and “right action” (modeled after the deeds of the Apostle).