Wisdom 6:12-16, First Thessalonians 4:13-17, Matthew 25:1-13
During our school days, we have a particular lecturer who does not like to stress the students in the way he sets his examinations. Before his paper takes place, He will spend time and tell the students the areas to concentrate on. We do not have to panic much because we know that in the end, he must give us areas of concentration.
But something happened in one of the final exams. We were expecting him as usual to forward us the major areas to concentrate and prepare for his exams. One week into the examination, no one heard from him. Many began to suspect that this time might be something different and they took the initiative to prepare all he had thought. But many were busy waiting for him because we know he can never fail in doing that.
While some were waiting, some were reading and preparing for the exam. It is not surprising that many waited until the day of the examination expecting his style as usual. The truth became clearer as the time to take the papers approached. It dawned on us that this time there is nothing like areas of concentration. He took many unawares. Those who read the signs of the time earlier became the luckiest people. In life, it is good to be ready at all times.
As the end of the liturgical season approaches, the readings of today hint us to be ready at all times, vigilant, awake and prepared because we do not know the time the son of man will come. It is a call to live in hope and not to give up. Whoever lives seeking for God will surely find Him. When our lives are circumvented around seeking to be with God at the end of our existence, we must surely be rewarded with what we are seeking.
He who seeks, Finds
One day a little boy approached St Francis of Assisi and poured out His grievances against God. He complained to the saint that He wants to see Jesus. All the time, He will approach the altar and ask Jesus to appear but see nothing. St Francis told Him that Jesus knows He is searching for Him. Even if He has not appeared to Him is not a reason to give up on Him. What he should do is to continue to approach Jesus, and tell Him how much he loves Him. Whether he appeared or not, He should not give up. The boy continued and yet nothing happened. Later the boy became sick and everyone thought he would die. Even the doctor has already proposed it might be His end.
On his sickbed one day, a little boy approached him in a dream and also told him how much he loves Him. He said He is Jesus who has come to repay Him for all the love and visits made to him and that tomorrow he is going to leave the hospital healed. This happened as it was shown in the dream.
This became one of the inspirational stories in the life of the saint. The first reading says that the only way to find wisdom is to love her and seek for her. Paul calls Jesus the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24) for Jesus is the Wisdom par excellence.
When we live seeking Him, we shall surely find Him. Jesus is the way to eternal life (John 10:27–28). If we are truly serious to live eternally with God we have to be constantly prepared for it. We have to live like those who know that the hour may take us unawares. We have to seek for it by loving Jesus with all our hearts.
In the gospel, the wise virgins know anything can happen at any time and they prepare for the coming of the bridegroom. If we truly want to be part of the eternal banquet we have to prepare for it by living a life that shows we have so much interest in it. This is a life of total communion with God. We have to prepare for the unknown all the time because the unknown always happens unexpectedly.
Be Ever Ready: Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins
For the sake of time, I will limit myself not to the interpretation of the lessons from the gospel and with some practical applications.
1.In the Jewish tradition, marriage is a great feast and often lasts for seven good days. At the eve of the wedding, the bridegroom will go to the home of the bride to fetch her because she will be awaiting his arrival with the host of the bridesmaid. Then there will be a long procession from there to the wedding hall.
It is expected that the long procession will be done with light in the darkness of the night. This is why there is a need for a lamp and oil for the procession. So in this gospel, the groom delayed his coming and this is why they all fell asleep. This parable prefigures the second coming of Jesus Christ which will take us unawares.
As we are journeying to the end of the liturgical year, we have also to constantly prepare for our end and the end of the world. Everything will take us unawares for no one will say the hour when and how it will happen.
One thing that made the wise virgins worthy is that they are truly prepared. They know that this event will take a long time and they take their oil for the journey. They also slept but what saved them was the oil.
Without oil, the lamp will not have any light. We need oil. We need the anointing power of the Holy Spirit, we need to keep our good work burning without giving up despite however the hour maybe.
Sometimes we think we have a lot of time. Many believe death is never their portion. Sometimes we do not worry about how the end of our lives would be. Then we begin to live the way we want until the hour takes us unawares. We have to be ready at all times.
3. When you look at the foolish ones, It is not that they do not have extra oil. Many people talk of extra oil but the answer is no. Read critically, the gospel says categorically that the foolish ones do not have any oil. They are part of the wedding procession but eventually, they did not make it to the banquet.
Being part of the wedding attendant is not a guarantee into the banquet hall. That we go to church and belong to thousands of organisations is not a guarantee that we are already citizens of heaven. That you are a singer in one church, chairman and president of fathers and mothers organization is not an automatic ticket to heaven. We need to put our oil. This calls for an intimate life with God. We need to seek God with all our heart, soul, mind and body.
4. The foolishness of the virgins is not that they do not have the oil but they did not prepare for the long procession. They think that the little they have is enough they presumed everything. They presume the time the bridegroom will come and also that their lamp is enough. Many times we live presuming that God understands our weaknesses. That God will have mercy or that He will know how we have served Him and how we have been a church member for many years. Sometimes we will say ‘well He knows I am not strong’.
Many assume that the second coming of Jesus may not take place again since He has delayed His coming. When we live a life of presumption, life will surely take us unawares. The unexpected will always happen to us. In my beginning story, many presumed and got disappointed at last. To avoid disappointment, never presume anybody.
1.Everything that has a beginning point must have an endpoint. It is only a foolish person that thinks life stops only at the beginning. We are ultimately born to die. Once we are living, the end will surely come. This end will surely take everyone unawares. If we like, let us build a skyscraper thinking we will inhabit the whole earth. No one will live in this world forever and ever. Let us always be ready.
Jesus calls someone a fool because he was thinking only on how he will enjoy life without thinking about His soul (Luke 12:16-21). He also calls the other virgins foolish because they presumed a lot did not prepare for the unforeseen. While we live, let us not forget to prepare for the unforeseen. This shows how wise we are, knowing fully that anything can happen at any time. Let us Be ready every minute and every hour. Tomorrow is always pregnant.
2. The readings of today which we later see clearly in the second reading is that we must live like those who have hope. Despite the problems of the times, we have to continue keeping the faith, burning our good work. For surely there is a reward for all who can endure to the end. To be vigilant is the key.
3. Like the foolish virgins who came back crying and knocking. Jesus reminds us that the end may be too late. The kingdom of Heaven is not when we shout Lord! Lord! (Matthew 7:21-23).
Always be ready. It is not how much we speak in tongues, how much we see a vision and how long we prophesy. It is not how many years we have served in the church but what we can do with what God has given to us. On the last day, it is our good work that will stand for us.
Be ready at all times so that life will not take you unawares so that when anything happens, your life is secure. Be ready at times even now that many are losing hope in God, thinking that God is nothing but the imagination of the mind but towards the end of their lives they begin to run around for last-minute reconciliation with God. We have to be ready because we do not know what the next hour will look like. Only God knows. We have to seek Him now that He is near and not when it is too late. Whenever we seek Him with all our hearts, we shall surely find Him.
God’s interest is on what you are doing presently with who you are, what you are and where you are. It is How many souls we have saved and touched. It is the Oil that makes the difference.
4. Finally, one may also add here, that despite however your present condition is, continue to live in hope. Even when life seems uneasy and prayers look unanswered, always live in expectation of God’s favour. It may look as if He delays his response. But He always acts in a way that surprises everyone. He may remember you when you least expect. Therefore, Never lose hope in God. Always be ready and in expectation of the goodness of the Lord. God bless you and happy Sunday.
You may read
To serve God, We do what We ought to do
The Saints: Our Hope for the Future. Feast of All Saints