Word of Life April 2023

By Patrizia Mazzola and the Focolare Word of Life team

The first Christian communities had only just formed, yet they were already experiencing internal disagreements due to false interpretations of the Gospel message. Paul, who was in prison, learned of these problems in Colossus and wrote to this community.

This month’s Word of Life can be better understood if we read the whole passage it is part of. “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God!” (Col 3:2–3).

To overcome such contrasting opinions, Paul invites us to turn our thoughts and our whole being to Christ who is risen. Indeed, in baptism, we have died to ourselves and risen in Christ. In a way, we live this new life “already,” as well as “not yet.”

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

Obviously, the possibility of sharing in this new life in Christ is not obtained once and for all, but must be continually sought during the challenging journey that lasts for our whole existence. It means directing our lives toward what is “above.”

Christ brought the life of heaven to earth, and his Easter is the beginning of the new creation, of a new humanity. Choosing this seems to be the logical consequence of deciding to live the Gospel: it is a choice that totally changes our mentality and overturns the order and the agenda that the world proposes. It frees us from external restrictions and brings about in us a radical change.

Paul does not devalue the “things of the earth” because through the incarnation of the Son of God, heaven touched earth and everything has been renewed (2 Cor 5:14).

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

What are these “things that are above”?

“Those values that Jesus brought to earth and which distinguish his followers,” Chiara Lubich wrote in a Gospel commentary in 2001. “They are love, harmony, peace, forgiveness, fairness, purity, honesty, justice, etc. They are all those virtues and riches that the Gospel offers. With them and by them, Christians maintain the reality of sharing in Christ’s resurrection.

“And how do we keep our hearts anchored in heaven while living in the midst of the world? By letting ourselves be guided by the thoughts and feelings of Jesus whose inner gaze was always turned to the Father and whose life always reflected the law of heaven which is the law of love.”

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

The presence of Christians in the world boldly opens up to the new life of Easter. Christians are new women and men who are not of the world (Jn 15:18-21) but who live in the world, which is marked by its current difficulties and challenges.

Thus it was said of the first Christians according to Diognetus: “They dwell on earth, but they have their citizenship in heaven... Just as the soul is in the body, so Christians are in the world.”

The evangelical and courageous choice of a worker who helped a colleague, who had just lost his job, led to a chain of fraternal actions by people moved by his example.

“In the factory where I work they started handing out letters of dismissal and one was addressed to my colleague Giorgio,” shares B. S. from Brazil. “I knew about his difficult economic situation and so I asked him to return with me to the personnel office. ‘I am better off than he is,’ I said to our boss. ‘My wife has a job: you can fire me instead.’

“Our boss promised to review the case. When we left, Giorgio hugged me and was deeply moved. People heard about what had happened and two other workers, in roughly my same financial situation, offered to take the place of two other men who had been laid off.

“The management was forced to rethink its methods of choosing who to dismiss. The local pastor heard about this and, without mentioning names, referred to it in his Sunday sermon.

“The following day, he told me that two women had given him all their savings for the workers in need and had said, ‘We too want to imitate what that worker did.’”