1If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.3For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.4When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
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When I realized that I’d be reflecting on the second reading for this week, I was so pleased because this reading is less than five lines long. Well, little did I know, the first four verses of the letter to the Colossians wastes very few words and is packed with meaning.
However, because I like to think about words, the meaning of words, and why we choose the words we do, I settled on the second verse, which says: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on Earth.”
“Above” and “on Earth” Let’s look at that line again: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on Earth.”
Why do we so often associate “height” words with goodness and achievement? We pursue “higher” education; we struggle to “rise above” petty politics; and we long for “mountaintop” experiences. In so much of our language, improvement is achieved by moving upward, and “higher” equals better.
Colossians 3 is encouraging us to focus on things above us, not around us – which, in my mind, raises two questions: how good am I at distinguishing “things on Earth” from “things above”; and am I prioritizing the “things above”?
Telling Good from Bad Seeking things that are above is all about re-orienting our energy and resources toward living out the mission of Jesus. Colossians calls us to lift our eyes away from the complications and messiness of daily life and to act out of what St. Paul calls the “higher gifts.”
Like you, I have good things in my earthly life – “higher” things – that Jesus has given me and wants me to prioritize for the sake of His mission: relationships (intimate, familial, and collegial), work (paid and unpaid), and opportunities to help individuals and communities.
But there are also things in my life that are “of this earth” and that hinder and distract me from living my best, Christ-mission life – prideful, destructive actions that pull me away from love and into selfishness.
The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing If you’re like me, it can be tough to judge how well you maintain your priorities. Although I’m pretty good at noticing when I’ve acted on the extreme ends of the good priorities-bad priorities spectrum, I struggle to track how well I am at keeping the main thing (namely, Christ’s mission) the main thing from one day to the next.
One of the best ways I’ve found to measure success in this area is to run my eyes over two things: my calendar and my bank statement. How am I spending my two greatest commodities: my time and my money? Wherever your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21).
Setting our minds on things above is not a one-time decision; it’s a decision we need to make over and over again. Lord, give us the humility, the dedication, and the strength to lift our gaze to You every day of our earthly lives.