Now it is November, we are approaching the end of 2020, and also heading towards the end of the liturgical calendar. We focus on the end or last things. This is called eschatology and is the part of theology concerned with death, judgement, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind. Throughout this month, we pray especially for our loved ones who have died and we also remember that we will all die, and Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead – or to welcome us into God’s heavenly kingdom.
In today’s readings, we are reminded that we should be ready to meet the Lord.
The parable Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel is about the wise and the foolish virgins. The symbolism is clear: the groom is Christ, and we all are the bridesmaids, the Church, the believers of Christ; the oil is our faith and our job is to wait and welcome the Saviour. Since we do not know the day or the hour of his coming, either at our own death or at the end of time, we must be ready at all times to greet him. As Jesus says, “Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour,” (v. 13).
Today’s Gospel is taken from a discourse about the end of the world and the final judgment. This parable, found only in Matthew’s Gospel, probably served as a warning to early Christians who hoped for a quick return of the Saviour. Matthew is telling them that the return of the Lord may be delayed beyond their expectations and that they should, therefore, prepare for the long wait by providing enough oil for their lamps.
What are we going to do in order to be ready to meet the Lord either at our own death or at the end of time?
Is Matthew’s message to his fellow Christians still relevant to us?
Very much so! As we draw close to the end of the liturgical year, the church through the Gospel, invites us to contemplate the end – the end of our lives and the end of the world. The way to prepare for the end is not to live in fear and anxiety, or to go after prophets and visionaries that claim to have access to God’s secret calendar of how and when the world will end.
Jesus told us that the Son of Man will come back on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead. How, and when that will be, we do not know for sure. How then, is a wise and faithful people to prepare for the end-times?
Today’s parable gives us the answer: The best way to prepare for the end is to follow the example of the wise virgins. The wise virgins took enough oil to keep their lamps burning. In the same way we should engage and persevere in good works and deeds to keep our faith alive. That is the best way to make ourselves ready and prepared for the Lord, no matter when the Lord chooses to come.
We have been living through the pandemic of 2020, and everything seems uncertain and hard to predict. Even in relation to our current church activities and gatherings, we are not quite sure about what is happening this weekend or the weekend after. The Scriptures this weekend challenges us to reflect and live in the spirit of “expect the unexpected.”