THEME: “Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

BY: Rev. Fr. Stephen Dayo Osinkoya



Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23
Psalm 90
Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11
Luke 12:13-21

On this 18th Sunday in Ordinary time, all the three Scripture Readings of today are well connected in theme and fit together into a practical advice that could be summarised under the title: “Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” In other words, they warn us of the need to place our hope in the things of heaven, not on the passing things of this world. That is to say, we have to ‘rise above materialism’ and to strive for what is spiritual and divine.

In today’s first reading taken from the Book of Wisdom the word vanity is applied to everything that is not directed toward God, everything that is directed toward the things of this world. That’s practical advice. How many sleepless nights have we spent tossing and turning with worries and concerns that either have not come to pass.

St. Paul likewise in today’s second reading gives us a wise advice when he tells us we should rid ourselves of immorality, impurity, passion, lustful desires and all of the fool’s gold offered us by the worldly. Why? Because in the long run all such things are worthless and empty and all of our energies devoted to those things will be vain. What value will things of this world have when we meet Christ face to face?

Dear friends we live in a very competitive world, a world that tells us we are really somebody only when we are popular, when we have cars, houses, clothes or money, or look more beautiful than others, a world that judges our value on who we are connected with, what we have or how we appear. Everything is built on measures of value that have nothing to do with how God sees us and values us. Because of this, everyone wants to be Number One. Everyone wants to come out on top. Everyone wants to be the most popular. In the long run, it has left everyone greedy. And greed is exactly what Jesus warns us against in the gospel reading of today.

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that greed is “a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, inasmuch as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things.” In other words, the greedy person chooses material and temporal things over and above God. This is pure idolatry, simple – worshipping, not God, but creatures, particularly money. Jesus warned us, “You cannot serve both God and money.” If we are for money, then we will eventually reject the true God. But the question we need to ask ourselves is: Who is measuring our value?

On the day we die, what can we give back to God that is made of matter? Is it the world? The world that He gave to you and to me? Will it be our real estate holdings? A big bank account? Our popularity? Fine clothes? Fancy cars? When death, the great leveller comes, everything the world values would be rendered valueless. Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity! St. Paul says, “Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Here Paul is not telling us to close our eyes to worldy realities and, hoping for the best. Rather he is urging us to check our understanding of life, our values, with those of God, which have been communicated to us by the life and words of Jesus. He reminds the Colossian community, and us too, that in Baptism we have become new persons as we have been raised with Christ. There we find the perfect image of God in Jesus who is the perfect pattern of life for us. That’s why St Paul counsels, “Put to death then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience.”

Dear friends, God wants us to die rich; He wants us to give Him a life that has value, a life that was well lived, a life rich in meaning and not lived in vain. What He wants and what we can give Him, regardless of our economic position or our social status, is a spirit, a soul that is richly adorned with attitudes and personality characteristics that are similar to those of Jesus Christ. The riches of this world are extrinsic, adding no value to our souls. Hence, we should be pursing what is intrinsic and will be part of us forever rather than the extrinsic which will disappear when we die. When John D. Rockefeller died at the age of 98 at the beginning of the twentieth century, he was the wealthiest man in the world. And a reporter who was assembling his obituary asked his chief aide, “Just how much did your boss leave behind?” The aide answered, “All of it.”

The parable of Jesus in the gospel reading of today does not deny the need to plan for the future, but it asks us to look at wealth from the ultimate perspective. The man in the parable is called a fool, not because he is stupid, but because he does not appreciate the true purpose of his wealth. In the midst of his good fortune he lost the sense of what is really important. For him the acquisition of material goods has become an end in itself. He imagines that he can control his life. Possessions create this kind of illusion. The rich man is really poor in the sight of God. He does not realize all that he has is a gift from God and does not even think about the possibility of sharing what he has with others. Jesus concluded the parable with the words, “Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”

Every day that dawn is filled with the presence of Christ, the Son of God. The risen Christ is present in the each days rising sun. Every sun rising carries within it the Resurrection of Jesus. Likewise each tomorrow brings with it a fresh start, a new beginning, and the opportunity to live in the new life given us in the death and resurrection of Jesus. True, there will be gains and losses, pain and joy, just as there were in the life of Jesus. The crucial thing is for us to find Him in our everyday so that we can receive and share His presence with those around us. With that vision we can wake up from the night of death and rise in the presence of God where we will find that our losses in this world would be our gains in the life of God and nothing would have been in vain for us. God has indeed blessed us enormously, but we need to ‘rise above materialism,’ we need to share our blessings, we need to find ways to build up our accounts in heaven.

*Rev Fr Stephen Dayo Osinkoya*

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