Various passages in the gospels speak about the need to be prepared.  There is the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, (Mt. 25: 1-13), of the man who left his servant in charge and then returned unexpectedly. (Lk. 12: 35-38)  St. Paul urged the Colossians “to be intent on things above, not on the things that are on earth.” Jesus often spoke of the time that is coming, saying things like “Be on your guard!” “Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen!” (Mk. 13: 33-37)

That’s a great challenge: to stay awake, to be constantly vigilant, praying at all times.  Constant vigilance and ceaseless prayer hardly seems possible for our human condition. We simply cannot avoid being occupied with things of this world.  There are also passages in the gospels that make it clear that our final destiny is determined by what we do in this world.  The description of the Last Judgment tells us what really counts.  Those are all things that we are challenged to do in this world.

We are faced with a dilemma.  How can we go toward the world without making it our center? How can we go beyond the world without rejecting it?  The problem is that we are asked to do both.  On the one hand, we are told: “Do not store up treasures for yourself on earth where moths and woodworms destroy and thieves can break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” “Set your heart on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness.”             (Mt. 6: 19-21)

We need to work in this world, keeping our eyes on the next world. We know we cannot attain final fulfillment on earth but we also know how decisive this life is for final fulfillment.  The challenge is to achieve a proper balance.  And maintaining balance is not easy.  As someone observed: In balancing an inch is everything.

There is a valuable lesson we can learn from tightrope walkers.   They proceed, paying close attention to each step, looking neither to the right nor to the left.  They focus intently on the goal, the platform at the other end of the tightrope.  As we walk the tightrope of life we would do well to focus intently on the goal, on Jesus and growing in his love.  If we manage to do that, everything will fall into place, like iron filings attaching to a magnet.