1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Matthew 25:1-13 As we near the end of the liturgical year, we hear the usual warnings about being prepared. The early Christians believed that Christ’s Second Coming, the end of the world, would come very soon, even in their lifetime. As one decade passed into another, this began to seem less likely. Therefore, the warnings against complacency and the motivation to stay alert. All the readings today ask us: Am I ready?
Jesus presents us with the parable of the wise and foolish virgins so that we will not be left out in the dark. Be wise by staying alert and prepared. I know a woman who was not left out in the dark. She died a two months ago; I had her funeral. She wasn’t a virgin; she raised nine children and had 37 grandchildren and 50 great-grandchildren. She was wise, prepared and had plenty of oil for her lamp. She was one of my favorite aunts.
I was with Aunt Shirley when the doctors told her she had inoperable cancer. A month later I was at her funeral. Aunt Shirley was a lovely woman in life, caring and compassionate, a hard worker with a great sense of humor, and always believed that something good could come out of any situation, no matter how unpleasant. She was wise, faithful and prepared for death because she lived close to the Lord all her life. She taught us how to live and showed us how to die.
When she received the bad news, I asked her how she was feeling. After 88 years of life, she said, she was happy, had a loving family and ready to return to God. When she was in a hospice residence, she told her daughters to wake her up if anyone came to visit. She wanted to thank them for coming. She encouraged the grandchildren and great grandchildren to visit. She spent time talking with them, asking them what they did that day, and answered any questions, even awkward ones. A week before her death she was able to hold and kiss her 51st great-grandchild. Knowing death was quickly coming, she didn’t focus on herself. The love she felt coming from God was shared with all.
There are some things we can borrow from others at short notice. But to be ready to meet Jesus, to walk hand in hand with him is not something we can suddenly wake up to and say, "Give it to me now!" By then, it is too late. Let us pray for the wisdom which knows where the real secrets of life and success are. Shirley taught us that being prepared means hearing the final call, "Get up! the Master is coming!" and being happy and more than ready to meet an old friend face to face.
Fr. Don Webber, C.P., is Provincial Superior of Holy Cross Province and resides in Chicago.