Preparation for Heaven is a Daily Thing
Among the great blessings in my life was that I was raised in a wonderful family.
From an early age, I learned so much about the faith and how to live it out through my mom and dad.
Both worked hard to provide for the family. They would take me to church and explain what happened at Mass. They taught me the importance of work and sacrifice. They taught me the importance of time, and giving it freely to others by doing so much not just for my sister and me, but by helping out their parents and extended family too. And to this day they are active in my home parish of Our Lady of Victory, and continue to do so much for family while living out their faith.
This week in the Gospel, we have the story of the ten bridesmaids. They are waiting for the groom to arrive and the celebration to begin. As darkness falls, five have plenty of oil for their lamps to provide light; some do not have enough. Those who do not have enough have to go and get more oil but upon returning find that they missed the arrival of the bridegroom and are shut out of the celebration.
Much of the readings during the month of November focus on the return of Jesus and the end times, and on our own morality. We hear these readings each year as fall fades into winter and the liturgical year comes to an end. We see the world around us seemingly die; and much of this year we’ve dealt with what seems like a perpetual winter, Narnia if you will, as we all are left wondering when will Covid finally begin to wane.
As Christians though, we are people of hope. In C.S. Lewis’ famous tale “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,” the children wander into Narnia and experience the 100 years’ winter at first. One of them, Edmund, who had been prone to lie and be mean to his siblings, is seduced by the White Witch, Jadis, but later, understanding mercy through the sacrifice of Aslan, the lion, who is the rightful king of Narnia, repents and helps defeat Jadis. Through Aslan, but also through many others joining in the battle in the story, victory is achieved and evil is vanquished.
For you and me, we strive to do the same thing, but it requires a bit of effort. Edmund, like all of us, had good within him – it just had to come to the surface. It required work. The kind of work you may see as I did in people like my parents. A daily preparation, because we never know when the time will come for us to stand before God. So how do we prepare daily?
For one, we trust in love. From my parents, I learned early on that God loved me, and that I was loved by them. All of us, as humans, are sometimes prone to fail. Time and again though we are reminded in the Bible of God’s love for us, God reaching out to us. So what we need to do, is to look at our lives, and make a frequent act of contrition, thinking about what we are lacking in returning to God and others the love God shows us. We can make use of confession; we’ll have a penance service coming up in early Advent and of course have confessions here at 3:30 every Saturday (and I’m happy to hear confessions anytime too for people by appointment). God is not out to get us, but wants to make us better so we always trust and turn to His mercy.
We then take the steps to learn from our mistakes. We are forgiven, but we try to learn from our past sins. What caused us to fall into a particular sin? Sometimes we can remove the things that cause us to be more prone to certain sins, or look at what we were doing when we committed a sin. It could be stress, too much alcohol, not enough sleep, wandering to websites we shouldn’t go to, running with the “bad crowd,” etc. We can make the needed changes and get better prepared to fight temptation.
We can also remind ourselves of the Beatitudes, which we heard last week in our Gospel. Jesus reminds us we can go above and beyond the commandments, but be proactive in living out our faith. Returning to my parents, they were people who didn’t just keep the lights on and food on the table; they were, and still are, actively involved in my life and of our entire family. Through our actions of love to our family, our community, our parish, we grow in grace.
Lastly, we help prepare the world for the coming of the Bridegroom. So many in our world are non-catechized; they have heard of God, but either through upbringing or just life circumstances, they drift. Some people have been hurt in life and can’t see God’s love. Others have focused on materialism. Others learned that school, sports, a job and having fun were what mattered most. Through the time we give others; through not being afraid to talk about our faith and explain it, and inviting people to come to know God, and through challenging others too we can help people begin to see what matters most. I think of our amazing people at Saint Joe’s who visit the homebound. They haven’t been able to do this as much during the pandemic, but visiting people and bringing them Communion, and the conversations they share do so much to lift their spirits and bring them closer to God. Time is such a precious commodity, and we can, by giving that gift to others and investing in our relationships, bring them closer to God.
We do not know when Jesus will return. We do not know when we will die. But we do know we will die. We sometimes try to deny that, but it’s a reality. So let us live for today, but prepare for tomorrow by being people of faith, hope and love. God loves us so much – let’s open our eyes and respond to that, helping one another to do the same.
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