33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
. . . so that you might imitate us. (2 Thessalonians 3:9)
Have you ever heard of mirror neurons? They’re those tiny little cells in our brains that fire up whenever we’re around someone else. Sometimes very faintly, but other times with great force, these neurons prompt us to imitate whomever we are with. When we see someone happy or sad or angry, it’s our mirror neurons that help us share in that person’s feelings and thoughts. These neurons offer scientific proof to Aristotle’s theory that we human beings are “the most imitative of all living creatures” (Poetics, IV).
No wonder St. Paul told the Thessalonians that he and his companions tried to be role models! It was “so that you might imitate us,” he wrote (2 Thessalonians 3:9). Paul knew that the Thessalonians had a much better chance of staying close to the Lord if they saw other people trying to do the same thing. He knew that our environment can have a very strong effect on the ways we think, the values we adopt, and the priorities we set for our lives.
This doesn’t mean that we are merely robots imitating everyone around us. We are still free human beings, each with our own unique personality. But it does mean that we are meant to live in community. We need the example of fellow believers to help us grow in our faith. And just as important, our brothers and sisters need the witness of our faith for their growth. The more we see holiness in action, the more encouraged we will be to keep pursuing Jesus ourselves.
Of course, we know who Jesus took as his role model. “A son cannot do anything on his own,” he told us, “but only what he sees his father doing” (John 5:19). Because Jesus kept his heart fixed on his heavenly Father, everything he said and did sprang from his Father’s goodness and love—even his self-sacrificial death on the cross.
So do your mirror neurons a favor. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and your brothers and sisters in Christ.
“Jesus, help me to imitate you in all that I do.”
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