“You Know Neither the Day Nor the Hour”
Are we prepared? That is the question addressed by the parable of the ten virgins in today’s Gospel.
This parable is based on the wedding custom in the time of Jesus where on the night of the wedding feast, the attendants or the bridesmaids would accompany the groom on his journey to meet his betrothed and then enter into the party. As you can imagine, in those days once night fell it would be very dark without the benefit of street lights and if you did not have oil for your lamp you would be of no value to the procession. Your lamp better work and you should have plenty of oil to keep it going if you expect to participate. On this night the bridegroom is delayed and the attendants fall asleep. Suddenly he appears and they need to spring into action by lighting their lamp and having enough oil to see them through on the journey. The five wise bridesmaids remained well stocked and prepared throughout a long night of waiting. Their reward is to enter the wedding banquet. The five foolish bridesmaids are not prepared and are left locked out of the wedding feast.
Like these bridesmaids we too are waiting. As we say in every Mass, “We wait in joyful hope for the coming of our saviour.” How do we wait for the second coming of Christ? Jesus is suggesting that some will wait wisely, and some will wait foolishly. The wise will be well stocked with oil for their lamp. We can think of the lamp as the divine life that was given to us at Baptism and that we are meant to keep alive as we wait. More concisely it stands for prayer, the Sacraments, the Eucharist, good works, a life of love, acts of mercy and compassion. All those ways that the life of Jesus remains vibrant in us. The wise waiters are those of us that practice these things.
For most of us, the idea that the “end times” and the “second coming” of Jesus will occur within our lifetimes, seems like a very remote possibility. But one thing we do know for certain is that our own “end time” will come. Life here one earth is finite. As the saying goes. “only two things in life are certain; death and taxes.” The only thing that we do not know is the day nor the hour. Are we prepared for this certainty and are we confident that we will enter the great wedding banquet set for us in heaven?
One effect of the ongoing global pandemic is a change in our perspective on death. By bringing what is potentially very far from us to potentially very close to us, we are forced to confront the reality of our preparedness. What have you done to prepare to deal with the pandemic? Did you stock extra food in your pantry? Have you made arrangements for your flu shot? Have you updated your will? Without the threat of imminent death, we can delude ourselves into thinking that death is not going to happen, or we can simply neglect to think about death at all. If death is decades away, it is not urgent. If it is potentially only two weeks away, then all of a sudden, death becomes an urgent concern for us.
What about your spiritual preparedness? How often do you pray? Is it every day? Are you a faithful attender of the Eucharist? Do you practice the sacrament of Reconciliation so as to always be in right relationship with God? Do you study your faith? Do you seek to understand it better? These are ways to keep the divine light strong in you. Do you love every day? Have you reached out to old friends who you have not talked to in a long time? Have you shared and savoured the love of your family? In a very real way, do you desire the good of the less fortunate and are you doing something about it? These are the ways that we stay ready to meet the bridegroom and enter into the heavenly banquet.
In closing, remember that this parable warns us that it is possible to exclude ourselves from the banquet of eternal life. It was only those who were ready, who went in with the bridegroom to the wedding hall. When God comes to bring us, will we be ready? “Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour." (Matt 25:13)
God bless you folks, Father Gerard