The end of the liturgical year is in sight. In a couple of weeks we would be celebrating the solemnity of Christ the King, and the Sunday after that ushers us into another liturgical year, another new cycle, and into the season of Advent. It is but natural therefore for us to be reminded about the last things to be reminded that, the end being a certainty, we really have to take our own preparation seriously; partly this means knowing how to value the true meaning of life and the realities that it holds.
The First Reading talks to us about wisdom, which is a gift of God that allows us to see and discern the profound meaning of things, and allows us to weigh their value, most especially in relation to our eternal salvation. Wisdom is the perfection of faith. As Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., notes in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, "Where faith is a simple knowledge of the articles of Christian belief, wisdom goes on to a certain divine penetration of the truths themselves." The better we understand those truths, the more we value them properly. Thus wisdom, the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, "by detaching us from the world, makes us relish and love only the things of heaven." Through wisdom, we judge the things of the world in light of the highest end of man—the contemplation of God.
With the aid of this supernatural light, we are able to assess and direct everything according to that which is really important, and this is none other that we be united with God, that we be saved, and this means being with Him in Heaven. The wise man sees that going to heaven, being with God, entering into eternal life with Him after our life here in earth as the most important goal that should be attained; that to which all else is secondary. On the other hand, the fool is he who lives as if there is no tomorrow, as if there is no God, as if the meaning of life is to indulge oneself in aimless pleasure, expecting the grave in the end and dreading it.
In this manner, the gift of wisdom therefore prepares us for the ultimate meeting that we would be having with the Lord.
In the Gospel we hear the Lord telling us about the parable of the ten virgins, some wise, and some foolish. The wise ones brought extra oil for their lamps along them, preparing themselves for the possibility that the bridegroom may be late in coming; it is not difficult to imagine the foolish one indulging in useless chatter in the meantime. From the parable we know that the bridegroom indeed came late, and his tardiness caused the oil in the virgins’ lamps to be consumed before they could even be used for in welcoming him. The wise ones had some in store, while their foolish companions had just seen their meager resource vanish. This saw them in the situation to go and look for more oil, a task that was actually difficult, considering the late hour. Everything continues according to its course even without these virgins. Except for these, the entourage proceeds to the banquet, which immediately commences behind locked doors, shutting everyone else out.
The parable is very familiar to us, and we could rightly deduce that with this the Lord is telling his disciples—and that includes us—about the necessity of being prepared for His coming, a coming which in other places in the Gospel has been described like a thief in the night. Nobody knows the time of one’s “visitation”, to borrow a term that the Lord used at one point. A few days ago we had just celebrated a feast and had a commemoration. The Solemnity of All Saints brings us to consider heaven, which is our goal and destiny. The Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed, which we had celebrated on November 2, not only reminds us to pray for our dear departed; it also reminds us of the fact of our own death, of our mortality, that life here is not without limits, as some would like to believe. The message that we are called to receive and meditate upon for our Christian life is not far from these considerations. The Lord is coming, but at an hour that we would least expect. That is why the message is clear for us: Be watchful and ready: you know not when the Son of Man is coming.
The Gospel, and along with it the letter of Paul to the Thessalonians, makes known to us that when the Lord comes, he is to bring those who are ready to receive Him to the banquet that knows no end. The message of the Gospel is not one of fear, but rather one that ought to inflame our hearts with hope. It is a message that points to the fact that man was made to be happy with God in heaven; we were made to achieve that full happiness that comes with being in union with God, with only whom man could be really alive.
In order to be ready for this coming, we have to keep the lamps burning and full of oil. The symbolism of the flame and the oil that sustains is brings our thoughts to the fact that we have to keep that charity alive within ourselves, a charity—or love, as you may—that is shared and that grows precisely because it is shared, one that is a participation in the very love of the Lord.
Concretely, the liturgy this Sunday and its readings admonish us to look ahead towards Heaven, which awaits us all. For this we have to ask for the gift of wisdom. Also we are challenged to live a well-examined life, asking ourselves regularly whether we have kept this hope awake in our hearts, whether we have kept the commandment of love that the Lord had enjoined us to live. One practical thing that will certainly help us is to do the daily examination of conscience, which is normally done before ending the day. All of the saints have undoubtedly practiced this.
Finally, we are called to live the present moment generously, knowing that we thrive on borrowed time, which us never sufficient enough for us truly love. A saintly soul, very much in love with the Lord once sighed, “how short life is for loving!” this entails to make good use of our time, putting order in things, avoiding that perfectionism that always succeeds in fraying everybody’s nerves, so as to be able to yield good fruit and a better rendering of the account of our administration.