November 12, 2023
From Fr. Jeff
“Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
In one sense, Jesus is encouraging us to be ready for the return of the bridegroom. It will be the consummation of all history, the second coming of Jesus, and a new heaven and new earth. In another sense, Catholic theology has often focused on the four last things: death, judgment, heaven, and hell. The shift here is to the consummation of each of our own lives. We do not know the day or the hour, so be ready. Yet a third perspective is that, at the time Jesus told this parable, the bridegroom had already been long delayed (they had been awaiting the messiah for generations), but was now in their midst. Wake up, for the time of the visitation is at hand! God is with his people, in the flesh. Today is the day! A slight nuance to that third perspective is that within each of us, the Holy Spirit dwells. Stay awake to the presence, promptings, and power of the Holy Spirit within your own heart and in your life. Be ready to encounter, experience, and respond to the grace at work in you.
As a Boy Scout, I memorized the Scout Oath, the Scout Law, the slogan and the motto. I can still recite each of them by memory. The shortest, of course, is the motto, “Be prepared.” In Scouting, being prepared was more than just a mindset. It was about planning, knowledge, skill development, team building, and equipment. In planning, determining the resources and people needed to accomplish a goal, set objectives, and carry out tasks made the troop or patrol effective and much more fun. Knowing what you needed to know and, even, what you didn’t know helped to be ready for the expected and unexpected. Tying knots, pitching tents, cooking food, purifying water, sanitizing dishes, setting a splint, reading a map, using a compass, starting a fire, and a whole host of other skills (and first aid) assisted in addressing the tasks, challenges, and contingencies of any situation. Developing a team that could work together as a unit, divide tasks and responsibilities, make decisions, and resolve conflicts also added to the effectiveness and fun of outings. It also helped compensate for members who had not yet developed certain skills or knowledge. The team was better together. Finally, the right equipment in working order made experiences much smoother and using knowledge and planning to take the right equipment needed for various possibilities was essential. Being prepared included all of these aspects.
In the parable of the ten virgins, Jesus tells us to stay awake, but the story is more about being prepared. All ten virgins actually fall asleep at the delay of the bridegroom. The wise virgins were prepared, however, and had brought extra oil. The others, the foolish virgins, were not prepared and were locked out of the wedding feast. Perhaps Jesus’s admonition to stay awake is about being prepared in the broader sense, like in Scouting. As followers of Jesus, each and all on our path of discipleship, what could it look like for us to be prepared for responding to the Holy Spirit and taking our next best step? Do we plan for our spiritual growth and service to others? What knowledge should we be adding and what should we be learning? Have we thought about the skills we need for praying, giving, forgiving, discerning, or serving? How are we building our team to be the body of Christ in action? Finally, what resources do we need to support and sustain us on the journey (e.g., bible, catechism, prayer book, rosary, crucifix, daily email with the readings, a confession app, outline for daily prayer process, membership in a fraternal organization, participation in a service event, a grief group, etc., etc., etc.)? How might this apply in our own personal journey, within our marriages and families, among our friends, and in our community? “Stay awake,” Jesus says. Be prepared!