Whether it is waiting in line at the Covid test site, grocery store, bank, or Timmy’s, for the Covid vaccine, the train, a call to get through, delivery, the birthday party, Christmas, or our loved ones to come home, our patience has been put to the test time and time again. The funny thing is that we all get upset, every single time, when we are asked to wait, even if we know that there’s a good reason for it.
I don’t know about you, but many of us find it challenging to keep on top of EVERYTHING: our job/career, laundry, grocery shopping (who knows our loved ones and the little people in our lives can eat so much =D) , preparing breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner, cleaning up (if only we have the fleet of servants from “Downton Abbey”) , kids’ school and extracurricular activities, and, of course, laundry again. In my family, my sisters and I have always been taught to always pick up after ourselves and keep our humble home clean; who knows when our next visitors may pop up! Well, easier said than done! How could we keep our house clean at all times and be ready for visitors at a moment’s notice?
If we feel anxious and impatient about waiting in line, imagine how the Thessalonians and, as Paul describes, those “who are alive”, may feel as they await “the coming of the Lord” (1Thess 4:15)! At the time, Paul wrote to the Thessalonians out of a great concern for the converts who lived under constant pressure of paganism and faced intensifying persecution (ref. Ignatius Catholic Study Bible 371). Paul wants to strengthen their faith and spiritually journey with them during such challenging times. The tone of Paul’s letter is encouraging and hopeful, rather than defeating and lamenting. He constantly reminds readers, some of them who “are anxious about the fate of their deceased relatives and friends (1 Thess 4:13), [that] as God raised Jesus from the dead and carried him into heaven, so too he will raise the righteous at the blast of the final trumpet and escort them into glory (4:14-18)” (ICSB 371). During their time of suffering and waiting, there is only one certainty: God has not abandoned nor forsaken them; that Jesus Christ will come again in glory. Not only does Paul encourage his readers that “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever”, but he also asks them to “encourage one another with these words” (1 Thess 4:17-18). As a community of believers, we, too, are tasked with encouraging and supporting one another, especially during challenging times. During such times, we know that there’s one certainty: our hope rests on the fact that God will never abandon nor forsake us; that His only Son continues to journey with us, every difficult step of the way, until He comes again in glory. Preface I of Advent - Eucharistic Prayer beautifully proclaims, “For he assumed at his first coming the lowliness of human flesh, and so fulfilled the design you formed long ago, and opened for us the way to eternal salvation, that when he comes again in glory and majesty and all is at last made manifest, we who watch for that day may inherit the great promise in which now we dare to hope”.
Since we are certain that Christ will come again, how do we prepare our “house” for the royal visit? To put it simply, it takes a lot of hard work and vigilance “for [we] know neither the day nor the hour” (Mt 25:13). If we love this house, we must care for it and all that is in it. We strive to keep this house in tip-top condition; after all, St. Paul reminds us that our body is the “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1Cor 6:19). This week’s Gospel reading, “The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids”, speaks to the need for preparation and watchfulness. Though the story’s characters are categorized into “wise” and “foolish”, it is not a story about one’s intelligence. Rather, it is a story of the heart. Five of the ten bridesmaids care enough to take extra oil with them while the other five do not. Later that evening when the bridegroom finally arrives, the “wise” bridesmaids “got up and trimmed their lamps” while the “foolish” ones have to scramble to buy oil (Mt 25:7). So, the “wise” ones are welcomed into the wedding feast while the “foolish” ones are turned away at the gate, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you” (Mt 25:12). Indeed, if we do not live like we “know” Christ every single day and bear Christ in our hearts, how do we expect Christ to “know” us when He comes again? If we, like the “wise” bridesmaids, always keep Christ in our hearts and minds, we will always be ready for Christ, no matter what time it is. Wisdom is not a measure of our intellectual capabilities but a gift from God, waiting to be received. “Wisdom” is to be “found by those who seek her” and “she goes about seeking those worthy of her, and she graciously appears to them in their paths, and meets them in every thought” (Wis 6:12,16). When we sincerely seek “wisdom”, “wisdom” will cross paths with us.
So, sisters and brothers in Christ, do not lose patience as we wait in joyful hope! Do not lose heart during challenging times! We know with certainty that our friend and teacher, Jesus Christ, journeys with us every step of the way. Let’s get our house in order and our hearts ready, together as a faith community, for the Royal visit.