32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Life is short – stay awake!” Do you know who said those words? Starbucks Coffee. Starbucks wants you to stay awake by drinking its coffee.
Jesus is also telling us in today’s gospel reading to stay awake. And he is telling us why. Of course, not in the spirit of Starbucks or in the way Starbucks wants us to stay awake, that is, with the help of caffeine. After telling the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids, Jesus says: “Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” With these words Jesus asks his followers to ponder his return and to be always prepared “for the unexpected.”
Jesus’ words have two senses: In the narrower sense, they refer to his Second Coming at the end of the world; In the wider sense, they refer to the time of our death when Jesus will summon us from life. If we take Christ’s words with respect to our own death, then they assume a note of urgency. We are supposed to be alert for Christ’s coming at the midnight of our life when we die. The note is one of urgency because we do not know how much time we have left. It might be very little; or it might be a lengthy period. In either sense, we have to be ready.
Based on today’s gospel parable, there are three things we must do to be always ready and to live ready for the coming of the Lord. Bring your lamp. Take enough oil with you. Keep your lamp burning.
The first step to being always prepared is to bring your lamp. The lamp is the symbol of faith that illumines our life. It is our personal relationship with God. It means having your life rooted in God. It is discerning, accepting and doing God’s will for you. It is responding to God’s call to you every moment of your life. It is fixing your eyes on and seeking first God’s kingdom. It is believing and trusting in God’s promises. It is personally sharing and actively participating in the life and mission of Christ. It is making your life a reflection of God’s love.
The second step to being always prepared is to take enough oil with you. The oil stands for grace. So, you must have the necessary grace you need in your life. You must not wait for the last moment of your life to fill your lamp with oil. Rather, you must do so already and from now on. How do you do this in more practical terms? By praying regularly, communing with God. By receiving the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. By reading and studying the Word of God. By doing service and ministry to the Church. By being a good steward of God’s gifts and sharing them generously. By living a life of active compassion and practical charity – performing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
The third step to being always prepared is to keep your lamp burning. Keep your lamp burning with the oil of God’s goodness and kindness. Be good and kind even to those who are not good and kind to you, even to those who seem to make life difficult for you, and even to those who take for granted what you do for them. Keep your lamp burning with the oil of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Show mercy, not judgment and condemnation, to those who are morally weak and lost; and help them to find the way to repentance, conversion and renewal. Forgive those who have hurt you, who have failed you, who have betrayed you – forgive without setting limits. Keep your lamp burning with the oil of God’s compassion and love. Learn to feel the pain of the suffering Christ in the person of the sick, the weak and the afflicted. Let this compassion move you to do something to alleviate their pain, to better their situation, and to help them to experience wholeness.
Bring your lamp… Take enough oil with you… Keep your lamp burning.
Let us end with a prayer: Lord God, fill our lives with Your grace. Make our lamps ever-full with the oil of self-sacrificing and self-giving love. Make our lights shine with practical charity and humble service. Make our lives kindled with the fire of Your love that others may experience Your presence with us and through us. Help us to fill our lamp to the brim with oil – the oil of Your grace. Amen.