Waiting in Joyful Hope, and Wisely for the Lord
Readings: Readings: 1st: Wis 6, 12-16; Ps 62, 2-8; 2nd: 1 Thes 1, 13-18; Gos: Mtt 25, 1-13
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, del Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
With just two Sundays to the end of this liturgical calendar of ordinary time, year A, today, the church encourages us her beloved children to be steadfast and ready without being discouraged or distracted until the Lord comes. Indeed, “the waiting game” is not an easy one but it requires lots of patience, humility and most importantly lots of wisdom. If we must succeed in this waiting game for the Lord, we must learn that patience is the greater courage while wisdom is the greatest of it all. Today therefore, we must ask God to grant us wisdom to know what to do at all times especially when we tend to run out of the spiritual oil (patience, courage, hope, faith etcetera) necessary for waiting for the Lord to act in our lives. This is most especially, when it does appear to us that Jesus is delaying too much to come to our recue.
Once, I saw a small boy seating patiently by the gate in front of their house. Considering that it was getting dark and chilly I asked the boy to go into the house. But he politely refused. When I enquired why he would not go in, he responded: “I have to wait here to open the gate for my mummy when she comes back, and I know that she is on her way now.” Surely, the poor boy was right, and I got it wrong because while we were still conversing we heard a car horn and a flash, and the boy with bright eyes and a bold smile on his face said to me, “here she comes, I told you I know my mummy is on her way.” Immediately, he left me to open the gate for his mum. I guessed, he was happy because he has proved a point to me, and even happier because he has taken the wise decision to continue his waiting game instead of succumbing to my temptation to seek some pleasure inside the house. This should be our attitude as we wait for Christ. Unfortunately, the tendency is for us to become impatient or act foolishly. However, with wisdom, we will definitely make the right choice.
In the first reading of this Sunday we are reminded that “wisdom is found by only those who look for her”. Here wisdom is personified as a woman, and it only takes a wise man to go out in search of her. The wise man does this with patience and hope, and so, never gives up until he has achieved his aim. Hence, with wisdom we are better Christians and more equipped to face the challenges of this life. Unfortunately, many of us neglect this fact and indeed the very fact that God has endowed us with wisdom in order to know how best to worship him. This is especially in our pursuit of truth through religion. Without wisdom our spirituality will be shallow and un-balanced. Without wisdom, our religious and Christian life will remain at the levels of mere fanaticism, fundamentalism, and all forms of senseless extremisms. Without wisdom, we are losers in every sphere of life. But with wisdom, we seek, find and worship God well. So in order to go to heaven, we need to be wise. Therefore, we must pray for it and earnestly ask God to help us find her because finding her is finding God and the path of eternal life.
In the second reading, Paul encourages the Thessalonians as well as us not to bother or grief too much about those who have died or gone before the second coming of Christ. That is, the Parousia. “…Do not grief about them like other people who have no hope…God will bring them with him…” This advice is anchored on the hope we have in the resurrection of the dead. So instead of worrying so much about them, the wisest thing to do is to worry about ourselves. What is supposed to bother us should not be what will become of the dead but, what will become of us the living when Christ comes. What should bother me is, how do I get there, how prepared am I for the Lord should he appear now as he promised. We must note carefully that there is no time or space attached to this coming of Christ, the least idea that Paul gives us is that “we shall see him when he appears in the sky.” But the sky is not a particular geographical location. So it could be anytime or any where! In spite of what seem to us humans in our limited wisdom as delay in the fulfillment of Christ’s promise about his coming, the fact is that: “All the promises of God in him are yes, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God …” (2 Cor 1, 20). It is quite unfortunate that even Christians now make caricature and mockery of Christ‘s promise about his Parousia. Once, I heard someone say to another, “I hope this promise of yours will not be like the promise of Jesus’ Parousia (second coming)?” They laughed over it because Christ’s word and promise is now empty. For this fellow, he has waited too long, and Christ on his part has delayed too long. So there is no need of trusting him anymore. He has delayed so long that he need not be believed any longer. What a pity! But the truth is that the wise never give up. They never get tired of waiting, all they do is get themselves fully prepared, ready and yet, keep themselves busy. So whether we are dead or alive, Christ’s promise will be fulfilled.
In the gospel of this Sunday Jesus used the parable of the ten virgins which is unique to Matthew, to teach us how best to be vigilant and prepared at all times for the coming of the Lord into our lives. While five of the virgins were wise in waiting for the “bridal train”, the other five were foolish in waiting for the same train. What separates these two categories of waiters or disciples is that same “thin line” that separates wisdom and foolishness, heaven and hell, good and evil etcetera. As thin as this line seems, yet it is thick. It is the part of the servant to wait patiently for his master to return. The moment of waiting should therefore not be for us a weary moment, but the moment of righting our wrongs, when we refill our spiritual lamps and wisely prevent the costly oil from being exhausted for nothing sake. We must not like the five foolish virgins, allow ourselves to become victims of the eleventh hour. Rather, as wise disciples, we must remain vigilant for Jesus’ return. We must not allow anyone to cheat or distract us. The question someone might ask is: As a matter of charity why did the wise virgins not share their oil with their sisters? The answer is simple. That would have been an awful and most stupid thing to do because right in the middle of the party all the oil will finish, the lamps extinguished, and the entire place thrown into darkness. This would be the embarrassment of the highest order orchestrated by a misguided notion of charity. Second, there is no excuse for the foolish virgins not to have oil in their lamps because they had all the time in the whole world to get enough but due to their laziness they did not. Instead they began to look for the black sheep when darkness has fallen. Indeed, it will be practically impossible to find it.
Jesus is on the way! His delay in coming should not be an excuse for us to lose out. Rather, it should be a blessing for us to get ourselves ready because, “everything works for the good of those who love and trust God” (Rom 2, 28). Let us therefore ask God today to endow us with much wisdom with which to be able to wait patiently until Christ comes to darken the door of our lives and souls. So, like the psalmist today, let us say to God daily: “For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord, my God. My body pines for you like a dry weary land without water!”
Peace be with you all!!