THEME: AVOIDING THE DISTRACTION OF THE FALSE PREDICTIONS ABOUT THE LORD’S COMING
READINGS: Wisdom 6:12-16 / 1 Thess. 4:13-18 / Matthew 25:1-13
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
As the church’s calendar of liturgy draws to a close, we are enjoined to ‘stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour’ of the Lord’s second coming (Matt. 25:13). It is, therefore, interesting that several times in history some people have claimed to know when the world will end. Not surprisingly, all their predictions have proved wrong.
If Jesus himself said that He does not know the day or the hour (Mark 13:32), how come some mortal/human beings claim to know the day of the end of the world? Are they greater than Jesus? Let me recall a few false predictors in recent history. In the early 1970s, a leader of the Jehovah Witnesses falsely prophesied that the world was coming to an end, that only 144,000 people would be saved, and that only Jehovah Witnesses would be saved. It is over forty years since that prophecy; it was certainly a big lie!
Again, towards the end of 1999, someone else made a lot of people anxious when he said that a big extra-terrestrial rock would crash the earth at mid-night on December 31. Ironically, thanks to him many people went to church that night, but certainly his prophecy was false. Less than seven years thereafter, another person also falsely prophesied that there would be an apocalyptic global catastrophe on 06/06/06, but nothing happened. Finally, in early 2011, another person was inducted into the ‘Hall of Fame of False Prophets’. He and his immediate predecessor appear to be disillusioned mathematicians rather than prophets. He falsely predicted that the world will end on 11/11/11.
Since we do not know the day nor the hour of the Lord’s second coming, we must stay awake. If we are, for instance, aware of the date of an examination or a class test we may assign a particular period of time to prepare for it. However, if our teacher is the type who calls for class tests without a prior notice, we should be always prepared to obtain good scores. Similarly, Jesus, our Divine Teacher, says that He will examine us at the time we least expect; so we should be always prepared.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus uses Jewish marriage custom to explain the unexpected manner of His second coming. The Jewish marriage celebration is different from the wedding Ghanaians have inherited from Europeans. In the first place, there were no church buildings at that time and the celebration took place at home. Secondly, unlike what we know today, it was rather the bride who waited for groom.
The negotiation for the dowry by the family of the groom – done on the wedding day – could take hours. After the dowry had been paid for, the groom, accompanied by others went from house to house announcing the celebration. Therefore, it took hours before meeting the bride and her bridesmaids; sometimes, as in the case of today’s gospel reading, the groom arrived late in the night. Thus, Jesus concludes His parable with the moral: ‘stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour’.
STAY AWAKE MEANS PREPARE TO MEET THE LORD
Beloved, to ‘stay awake’ does not mean merely having our eyes open and waiting; rather it means being well prepared to meet the Lord either at death or during His second coming. This is all the more important, as the second reading (1 Thess. 4:13-18) reminds us that some have already died before the Lord’s coming and still others will depart this life before that Day of the Lord.
How then do we prepare well to meet the Lord? We can pick a lesson from the gospel reading. Like the wise virgins, we prepare well by keeping some extra oil. What is the oil? The oil could be seen as the will of God. Then, as long as we are doing the will of God, we are keeping some extra oil. That is why Jesus says: ‘Not everyone who calls me “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven’ (Matt. 7:21).
There are two more points I would like us to learn from the parable of Jesus:
- Certain things cannot be obtained at the last minute.
- Certain things cannot be borrowed.
CANNOT BE OBTAINED AT THE LAST MINUTE
The five foolish virgins waited for the last minute to look for extra oil, and missed entering the wedding hall. So, we cannot wait for the last minute to do God’s will (when we already know His will) and expect to enter his kingdom. Today, and always, let us make efforts (with God’s grace) to do His will.
We can also pick the following practical life lessons:
- A student cannot expect to be always successful if he/she is in the habit of waiting till a minute before exams to read his notes.
- A professional cannot expect to always perform well if he/she has the habit of last minute preparations.
- A parent cannot expect a spoilt child to become a good husband or wife merely by a last-minute advice or counselling.
CERTAIN THINGS CANNOT BE BORROWED
The foolish virgins could not borrow oil from the wise ones, though they wished they could. Similarly, you and I cannot borrow someone’s good deeds or character. If someone does God’s will and we disobey Him, that person’s good deeds cannot be credited to us nor transferred to us – for good deeds are not like phone credit units.
Secondly, some of us are fond of living in the glory of others: ‘O, that man – that great state man –was my classmate!’ What do we gain from that? What about us? What have we achieved in life? ‘O that great footballer is my brother.’ What about us? What skill or talent do we have? We cannot borrow our brother’s or sister’s achievements.
‘O, we have so many great Saints in our church!’ My brother or sister, though they can intercede for us and inspire us, we cannot borrow the holy lives and achievements of the saints! So let us aspire to be saintly ourselves. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis