A refelction on the readings for the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
I’m glad everyone survived the cold snowy weather we had last weekend. It sort of crept up on us. If you’re like me you probably thought: “How bad can this be; it’s only October. The leaves on the trees are still green and the lawn needs to be mowed at least once more. Where did this winter weather come from?” Three inches of snow, downed tree branches all over the yard, no power for 8 hours and an indoor temperature of 59 degrees: SURPRISE! I wasn’t at all ready for it. I should have been better prepared. Well, maybe next time.
Today’s gospel of the wise and foolish virgins is Jesus’ way of telling us we need to be prepared for “the last things” of our life. If we’re not, they’ll catch us off-guard like an early autumn snowstorm. This is not the first warning we received from Jesus telling us we need to be ready. The daily scripture readings during the past month have told us what happens to guests who aren’t ready to join the king for his son’s wedding. They get dealt with harshly and are barred from the banquet. Likewise, the servant who knew his master’s will but neglected to make the necessary preparations was severely beaten for not being ready upon his masters’ return.
Jesus reminds us over and over again that the time we are given to “get ready” is finite and set. There’s no second chances, no do-overs, no extra-time. What a shame it would be if we squandered our allotted time in life and never fully discovered the goodness of God.
In three short weeks we come to the end of the church’s liturgical year. That time will once again gives us another opportunity to ask: “Am I ready?” Am I prepared to meet God face to face if my time to do so comes unexpectedly soon? Or am I like the five foolish virgins, unprepared for the bridegroom’s appearance, to be forever locked out of the feast?
Get Ready! Like the wise virgins in today’s gospel, it’s the prudent person who prepares himself to be ready for the unexpected. But, you may ask, just what do I do to get ready? Lucky for us we have a guide to follow if we want to understand what that means. Just follow Jesus. Follow the example of his life by pursuing the things he pursued and practicing the things he lived while he was among us.
First and foremost, be strong and unwavering in your faith and in living your Christian beliefs. Pope Benedict recently said that Catholics around the world need to do a better job in living the faith they teach. That means persevering in your beliefs even when society unceasingly questions them.
Take for example our Christian belief in the sanctity of marriage which involves a covenantal union of husband and wife with God. The impulse of today’s society is to redefine marriage in order to recognize same-sex unions and temporary relationships. This reflects a grave misunderstanding of the true meaning of marriage. Yet that’s precisely what is happening today. We, as Christians, need to voice our concern and work to preserve the definition of marriage as it was instituted by Christ. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman in a permanent, faithful and exclusive relationship that is open to the conception of children.
Right now the US Senate is getting ready to vote on repealing The Defense of Marriage Act, calling it a law that is has lost its relevance to current times. We need to let our legislators know our belief that it is only in the sacred spousal union of husband and wife, and in the rearing of children who are the fruits of their parents’ marital love, that justice and the common good are preserved in society.
Being ready also means embracing the truth as Jesus taught us. Current day issues involving the sanctity of life, social justice and human equality cannot be ignored. Turning away from what Pope John Paul II described as “the culture of death” is a necessity if we are to embrace the truth Our Lord revealed to us.
This means working to protect every member of our society, including those who are the most marginalized, voiceless and vulnerable. Supporting fair immigration laws; working for the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger; promoting equality of gender and race are issues that concern us all. These types of issues mattered to Jesus and they also should matter to us.
We “get ready” by living a life that matters. Christ warns us not to fall into the trap of believing there’s always time “later on” to do the things we are asked to do with our life. Don’t let good intentions be outweighed by ambivalence. Today’s gospel illustrates how precious little time we are given to pay attention to what matters most in life. Our Lord reminds us that all things — and all situations — are temporary and can change in an instant.
Our salvation is our own personal responsibility and NOW is the time to get ready for it. Life is preciously short and fragile and being ready is more important than watching and waiting like bridesmaids.
“The bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked.”
Get ready…”For you know neither the day nor the hour.”