THEME: STAY AWAKE FOR THE DAY OF THE LORD’S COMING
READINGS: Wisdom 6:12-16 / 1 Thess. 4:13-18 / Matthew 25:1-13
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
As the Church’s calendar of liturgy draws to a close, we are enjoined to heed to the admonition of our Lord Jesus Christ: ‘stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour of the coming of the Son of Man’ (Matt. 25:13). To stay awake means to be always prepared. If we know the day of the Lord’s coming, we could defer our preparation, but since we do not know that faithful day, we must be always prepared.
THE UNKNOWN DAY OR HOUR
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus uses the Jewish marriage custom to explain the unexpected manner of His second coming. The Jewish marriage celebration is different from the wedding ceremony inherited from the West. In the first place, there were no church buildings at that time and the celebration took place at home. Secondly, unlike what we know today, it was rather the bride who waited for groom.
In the Jewish tradition, the negotiation for the dowry by the family of the groom was done on the wedding day; and this could take hours. After the dowry had been paid for, the groom, accompanied by others went from house to house announcing the celebration. Therefore, it took hours before meeting the bride and her bridesmaids; sometimes, as in the case of today’s gospel reading, the groom arrived late in the night. Thus, Jesus concludes His parable with the moral: ‘stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour of the coming of the Son of Man.’
STAY AWAKE MEANS PREPARE TO MEET THE LORD
Beloved, to ‘stay awake’ does not mean merely having our eyes open and waiting. It rather means being ever prepared to meet the Lord anytime He should return. How then do we prepare well to meet the Lord? We can pick three lessons from the gospel reading: (a) Like the wise virgins, we prepare well by keeping some extra oil; (b) as the foolish virgins learnt, certain things cannot be obtained at the last minute; and (c) as the foolish virgins learnt, certain things cannot be borrowed.
- KEEPING EXTRA OIL
Whereas the wise virgins kept some extra physical oil, we must keep some extra spiritual oil (of salvation). What, then, is the oil of salvation? The oil of salvation could be seen as the will of God. Hence, as long as we do the will of God, we have some extra oil of salvation. On the other hand, when we disobey God, we run short of the oil. That is why Jesus says: ‘Not everyone who calls me “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven’ (Matt. 7:21).
- CERTAIN THINGS CANNOT BE OBTAINED AT THE LAST MINUTE
The five foolish virgins waited for the last minute to look for some extra oil, and unfortunately missed entering the wedding hall. Similarly, we cannot wait for the last minute to do God’s will (when we already know His will) and expect to enter His kingdom. Therefore, today and every day, let us make the effort to do God’s will with the help of His grace.
(c) CERTAIN THINGS CANNOT BE BORROWED
The foolish virgins could not borrow oil from the wise ones, though they had wished to do so. Similarly, you and I cannot borrow someone’s good deeds or character. If someone does God’s will but we disobey Him, that person’s good deeds cannot be credited to us nor transferred to us, as much as someone else cannot eat for us.
Secondly, some of us are fond of living in the glory of others: ‘O, that man – that great state man –was my classmate!’ What do we gain from that? Or others may say, ‘O that great footballer is my brother.’ What about us? We cannot borrow our brother’s or sister’s achievements, as much as someone else cannot take medications on our behalf.
Finally, then, though our Church has so many great saints who inspire us and intercede for us, we cannot borrow their holy lives and achievements. Let us, therefore, aspire to be saints by doing the will of God, with the help of His grace. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis