Watching the Heavens, Ignoring the Earth

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

The Associated Press recently carried a story that I found both amusing and instructive.

It seems that in Florida, some folks observing last month’s lunar eclipse from their car, forgot to keep an eye on the rising tide around them. Sure enough, their car was swamped and had to be towed out of the water. Yep, they were watching the heavens but ignoring the earth.

There are a couple of lessons there for Christians.

First, the Church often encourages us to look to the heavens, figuratively that is, to think about our future. We are to pray for the Second Coming of Christ, stay awake to await the Master’s return, and remember our final judgement and the ultimate realities of heaven and hell. The danger, though, is that if we take that posture to an extreme, if we long for the future while neglecting the realities of everyday life, we can be swamped by the rising tide of indifference, disengagement, corruption and sin.

The more common danger, though, it seems to me, is that we get so wrapped-up in the daily trials and tribulations of earth that we tend to ignore the heavens, that is, we forget the future that awaits us. When that happens, every problem seems like the end of the world; we think there’s no accountability for our behavior; we don’t plan for anything; and we discount the comfort our faith imparts. We so immerse ourselves in the rising tide that we ignore the wonderful sights taking place in the heavens.

The Christian life is, in fact, a blend of the past, present and future. Our faith is based on the saving events of the past, culminating in the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus. In the present moment, the operative virtue is charity. We are called to love God completely, and our neighbors as ourselves. We are challenged to get involved in our world, to make a difference, to be “salt and light.” But at the same time, we can’t ignore the future, for we know that we have a glorious destiny, that our permanent home is in heaven. It’s that virtue of hope that sustains us during the trying times of our earthly pilgrimage.

Something to think about: As a Christian, do you tend to focus more on the realities of the present moment, or to long for the hope the future holds?