Sunday reflection by Very Reverend Stephen E. Salocks, Rector of Saint John's Seminary - November 8, 2020
"Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
As the end of the Church year approaches and Advent draws near, the prayers and scriptures at Mass begin to draw our attention increasingly to preparing for the coming of the Lord. On this Thirty-Second Sunday of the Year, we begin a three-week journey through the 25th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, which is part of Jesus’ fifth and final discourse (Matthew 24-25) that speaks about end-time calamities like the destruction of Jerusalem and false prophecies as well as the return of Christ and the last judgment. Because the hour of Jesus’ return is unknown, his followers are to “stay awake” and so be prepared.
In the Gospel today, we hear the parable of the ten bridesmaids who are waiting for the groom to return so the wedding celebration can begin. It is a story about waiting wisely or foolishly – about being prepared or not prepared to wait – about the contrast between the wisdom of being prepared in such a way that one is admitted into the feast and the foolishness of not being prepared and being excluded from the joy of the wedding banquet. As disciples of Christ, living in the time between His death and resurrection and His second coming, we are waiting for Him to return for his bride, the Church.
Since being prepared for the coming of our Lord is most important, we want to see how the other scriptures of the day guide our preparation. Saint Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, tells them and us that even in the face of death and loss of loved ones, there is always hope. “We shall always be with the Lord,” and we should “console one another with these words.”
Psalm 63 frames our way of preparing as we respond to God’s Word by professing that our soul is thirsting for the Lord, our God. Awareness of our spiritual hunger and thirst for the Lord, the psalmist reassures us that God’s steadfast love and kindness, power and glory help us and satisfy our souls “as with the riches of a banquet.”
All of this finds support from the Book of Wisdom, which assures us that when we begin seeking for God and preparing for his coming, we discover that we are the ones who are being sought and found by God. According to Wisdom, there is a double movement in our relationship to God. As the person who values wisdom searches, desires, and strives for her, wisdom is seeking for those worthy of her and searching for those who love her.
No matter how hard we strive to find God and prepare for God’s coming in our lives and in our world, the moment of encounter often reveals to us that, in fact, it is God who has been seeking us out, speaking to us not only in our prayers, but also through the experiences and relationships of our lives.
Today, we receive encouragement to keep placing our trust in God as we prepare to meet His Son, Jesus Christ, when he returns in glory. May the loving kindness of God deepen our faith and help us to live each day in hope!