We are approaching the end of the liturgical year, which orients our attention to the end of time. No wonder the readings for this Sunday refer to the wisdom of being prepared. How prepared am I? That’s the question the word of God proposes to each one of us.
Bible Readings Wisdom 6: 12-16 Psalm 63: 2-8 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18 Matthew 25: 1-13
Month of All Saints and All the Dead
We are in the month of November –a month that is marked by two commemorations: All Saints and the All the faithful departed. Here two things are evoked: death on one hand and eternal life on the other. As Christians we look at death with eye of faith in the resurrection that makes us look to the future with hope in life without end. Nevertheless, that does not make us indifferent to death.
Of course, as Christians, the resurrection is at the centre of our faith. Yet that doesn’t clear away questions that may surface especially when we are confronted with death. Believers and non-unbelievers alike, we all pose questions: what happens to our beloved ones who have died? What will happen when I die? They are legitimate questions that we shouldn’t hesitate to pose, even though we may not always get definite answers. Death is a human question that cuts across all ages.
Thessalonians struggle with the same question
In the Second Reading we have the Christians of Thessalonica who live in the hope of that Christ is coming soon and he will find them still alive. On the other hand, they think of their beloved ones who are in the tombs; what will happen to them? Are they left out the fact that they are dead? That’s the preoccupation that troubles their minds.
In his response Paul does not play down the pain and the sorrow that may come with the loss of dear ones, yet, that pain can be lived in the hope that death is not the end. Thanks to such hope, the dead are not captives of death and neither are they in any way disadvantaged over the living –they are only sleeping in the Lord. They are like those girls in the parable who though fall asleep but their lamps go on burning. The lamps of our dead continue to burn thanks to their faith, hope and charity; their reserve of oil that they prepared while on earth.
Wisdom of preparing the Lord’s coming
So the question is no longer whether I shall still be alive or dead when the Lord comes but rather will my lamp be still burning? This will demand a constant refuelling of my little reserve. It takes the wisdom, evoked in the First Reading and in the Gospel, in order to be prepared and to watch till the Lord comes.
We have the parable of ten girls waiting for the coming of the bridegroom and all of them put in their effort in the preparations, however, it’s only five of them get inside the banquet room with the bridegroom. The five others are shut out. We would say, ten started this journey but not all of them got to the end. This makes us appreciate that it’s not enough to begin but we need to think also of the way of getting to the end. So it’s not just about the initial preparations but also to be able to remain on the alert all the time and being faithful till the end.
We have started our journey towards the encounter with the Lord but we should watch out so that the flame of that initial desire that inhabited us from day one does not die out. There’s need to replenish continuously our little reserve.
What kind of oil?
Every act of love, a commitment to act justly in my relationships with others, every effort I make to relieve those in pain; in short, whatever I do to live my faith and hope by concrete acts of charity my reserve bottle is replenished.
Besides, it may be necessary also to ask myself: what are the things in my life that empty my reserve bottle and dim my vigilance? And contrariwise, what things rekindle in me the desire of waiting vigilantly till the end? To be able to do such discernment, and finally acting accordingly; one needs a good dose of wisdom.
The Good News
Often we associate the end of our lives and the end of the world with judgement. No one likes to be judged –judgment frightens. Happily, here the coming of the Lord is not the day of judgement and vengeance; rather, it’s a day of encounter consummated with a festive meal. So, it’s something we can look forward to with great enthusiasm. Let’s us then be ever animated by such fervour till the end. We may encounter on the way situations that distract our vigilance yet with the wisdom that comes from God we may be able to know what’s important and thus remain focussed.
Lord, give me the wisdom that comes from you so that I may always be prepared, especially by knowing how to keep my little flame burning till you return.
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