The Tent

Our homes on this earth are only temporary

“…We know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.” 2 Corinthians 5:1

When Saint Paul describes our earthly home in the second letter to the Corinthians, he doesn’t describe a mansion, or a dwelling made with bricks, stone, or wood. Rather, he describes a tent.desert-tent

A tent is typically a temporary structure, usually one that is portable. As such, it’s an appropriate metaphor for our life on this earth: transitory, finite, fleeting.

This flies in the face of the world’s “wisdom”: obtain as much as you can by whatever means possible, because this life is all that matters. To the Christian, it’s just the opposite: keep your possessions and your worries to a minimum, as all that matters is our service to God as we make our pilgrimage to our heavenly home.

The tent metaphor has several lessons for us:

Travel light. Possessions – and the pursuit of money to obtain them – tend to separate us from God, rather than bringing us closer. Paul describes himself “as poor yet enriching many; as having nothing and yet possessing all things.” (2 Corinthians 6:10) That should be our attitude, as well.

Be nimble. Flexibility is one of the characteristics of a disciple. God may call us to pack up our tents and move on at any time.

Focus on our heavenly home, rather than our earthly one. Relatedly, we need to keep reminding ourselves that our home is not here, regardless of what our senses and society tell us.

Keep events in perspective. Temporal worries, from our own financial or physical health to global-scale events such as wars and natural disasters, can preoccupy us and distract us from our spiritual life. We should pray and act to affect these situations as best we can. However, worrying about things that are out of our control is counterproductive.

Ultimately, we need to realize that God’s in charge, to put our concerns in God’s hands and to recognize that, as serious as things seem to be at this moment, this world will eventually pass away.

Let’s live in our tents with joy but be ready to pack up and move on when God calls.

Chips and Salsa

What are we looking for?

A young priest recently told part of his vocation story at an event I attended. It got me thinking about how we encounter Christ in our normal, everyday activities. Many times, though, we fail to recognize him in these encounters.

In relating his vocation story, the priest recalled a time when he was a young adult, headed to a party. He realized that he needed to bring some food to the party, so he ducked into a store for chips and salsa.tortilla-chips-salsa

An older African-American man was stocking shelves at the store. He asked the young man, “What are you looking for?”

“Chips and salsa,” the young man replied.

“No, what are you looking for?” the older man asked again.

The young man had been working at a well-paying job that he liked, he was driving a nice car, he had friends he enjoyed spending time with (hence, the chips and salsa). In short, he was a young professional with his share of what the world had to offer. Nevertheless, he felt there was something missing in his life.

In that moment at the store, he realized that it wasn’t just a grocery store clerk asking him about snacks. Rather, it was the Holy Spirit asking about his life. The young man began reflecting on his life in a deeper way, pondering what it was in his life that was missing. That encounter was the start of a friendship with the older man and a process that culminated in the young man becoming a priest.

Recognizing God in our lives requires sharpened senses to detect his presence. And, yes, that takes some practice. On a physical level, it means paying less attention to the noise and distractions of the world. On a spiritual level, it means frequent prayer and reception of the sacraments to sharpen our senses.

At a recent novena, the preacher summed up the way we encounter God in six words: “God comes disguised as our lives.” Essentially, God is with us in the everyday routine of our lives, not just the spectacular life events. It’s our job to see beyond the disguise.