17 Jun Be Alert, It’s Time
Maybe you have had a relationship with God in the past but are you finding no time for Him now? Are you solely dependent on the prayers and petitions of others? God is asking you to have a zealous relationship with Him now so that on the day He comes again, you will not be in a position where Jesus denies you and says, “I don’t know you”.
The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids
Matthew 25: 1-13
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them;but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him. Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Are you prepared?
The Lord is preparing us to be alert because we do not know when He will come again. Like the parable above, the Lord repeatedly tells us that we should be alert ready. We must be prepared to receive Christ, which means we need to always be prepared to meet our God and should always be in the Lord. Matthew 25: 13 states, “Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day, nor the hour.” God tells us that we do not know when He will come again, we don’t know when we will leave earth. Even Matthew 24:42 states “Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your lord is coming again” and so like it says in Matthew 24:44, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of man is coming.”
In Luke 12: 40, we read again, “You also must be ready, for the son of man is coming at an unexpected hour.” The word of God teaches us, that the Son of Man is coming. He said, ‘He will come.’ The most important thing here is ‘at an unexpected hour’, like a thief. In 2 Peter 3: 10, we read more about this unexpected hour. “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.”
One hundred years before Jesus was born, the prophecy of Messiah was already spoken. Many did not believe, many did not expect, but the prophecy of the Lord came true. In the same way, when the Lord has prophesied that He will come again, He will surely come. He has promised this and will come like a thief at an unexpected hour.
In 1 Thessalonians 5: 2 we also read, “For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” and in Luke 21: 28, “Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” As you can see there are many scriptures which tells us that the Lord is going to come again. In the parable we read of the ten bridesmaids, the Lord is asking whether we are prepared to welcome Him. And so, the question is, are you? Are you really prepared?
How to be prepared for Jesus’ second coming
- Let God know you.
According to the parable, the five foolish virgins were trying to depend on the five wise virgins. In the same way, sometimes many of us fail because we try to borrow a conversion or a God experience from someone else, but this is not possible.
What did Jesus tell them? In Matthew 25:12, the Lord, tell us a shocking and central message- “But he replied, Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” The Lord himself in John 3:67 says, “Everything that the father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away” yet he denied these virgins. So, why was this? It was because they did not give their time nor their life to God. They were trying to depend and rely on the oil of others. So, the question for you is, are you also depending on others? Are you a person depending on the intercession of others? Do you think that just because your parents, friends or maybe people you may know who are intercessors here at Divine are prayerful then you don’t need to be? If so, the Lord will look at us and say, “Sorry I do not know you.” When He comes, He will look at you and you will be like a stranger to Him. It would be a great tragedy.
This parable is asking us whether we have oil in our lamps. Whether we have grace to meet God, whether we have the virtues. The ‘fine linen’ in the parable symbolizes the virtues, the good deeds. The Book of Revelation 19: 7-9 is the real representation of this parable. This parable is reanalyzed and is reproduced in the book of Revelation by saint John. We read, “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready; to her it has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure – for the fine linen is the righteous deed of the saints. And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb,’ and he said to me, ‘These are true words of God’” ‘Blessed are those who are invited.’
Will you be rejected? This relies on the simple question of whether you have a personal relationship with God. You cannot have a relationship with God just because somebody else does. Just because your mom is close to God, although she may have an influence on you, does not mean her relationship with God extends over to you. You too must have a personal relationship- just you and God. Jesus is calling us to this personal relationship. At the end of the day, despite our other roles in life, we must be united and immersed with our bridegroom, Jesus.
- Spend time with God – Now
Are you someone who keeps postponing time for God, thinking you will have time later in life?
Is this after death? Retirement? Or after having looked after your children? But we must shouldn’t postpone this; God wants us to have a relationship with Him all throughout our life. And so, are you ready to receive Him? Do you believe that He will come again? Will you be prepared when that day comes?
I remember an incident in my own personal life which really changed all my ideas about prayer and personal relationship with God. While I was studying in Rome, there was no Chapel in the house I was staying because the house was being renovated.
So, at my request, the father-in-charge of that house brought the Tabernacle and so I used to pray before the Blessed Sacrament and would sit there for some time. Then father brought over two candles. As the father there was not interested in having perpetual adoration, he didn’t have many candles.
After lighting these candles, I wanted to buy some more but unfortunately, because I didn’t know how to speak Italian, I didn’t know how to buy them. Then I thought of requesting the priest-in-charge to buy new candles to put before the Blessed Sacrament as I thought that this was the way I could ‘please’ God. Before going to ask the priest, I thought he may become irritated about why I always light so many candles and so I thought to ask if I could buy him some new ones and put it there instead. However, whilst I was praying, the Lord said to me , “My son, do you think that I would only be happy if you put light new candles in front of me? My son, I’m not interested in candles; I am interested in you. Can you sit before me? I need you more than a candle. I need to see your face. Can you be like a candle? Can you light for me? Can you sit in front of me? Can you give me love? Company? It’s you I created in my own image and likeness. I’m not interested in the things of this world.”
This converted all my convictions. Before I thought the Lord would be happy if only I was to keep a candle before Him. But the reality is, He is not pleased by the thigs we do, or the money we offer. He is the Creator of the whole earth; the entire earth belongs to the Lord. Then how can you make Him happy with the material things that you offer? In Psalm 24:11, it says “the Earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it”. The Earth belongs to whom? The land belongs to whom? There are people struggling with court cases, land cases, with no land or property. But nothing belongs to any human. The word of God says in Leviticus 25:23, “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants.“ The Lord tells us that the land is His. This country is His and its land belongs to God. There may be people who lived, died and disappeared but the land remains because it belongs to God. Maybe there are people who claim that this is their land, people may be fighting for land and property, but the Lord is tells us that human beings are just tenants, just aliens.
Ultimately, you cannot please God nor bring glory to God with any kind of material things that you intend to offer Him. You cannot make God happy with the land you offer Him, with the money you offer Him or the material things that you offer Him. He needs you. He wants to know you. That’s why Hosea 6:3 says, “Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord; his appearing is as sure as the dawn; he will come to us like the showers, like the spring rains that water the earth. “And so, ask yourself, how much do you know Christ? What do you know about God? Will the Lord claim to know you or will he reject you like the five virgins? Ever since the time God spoke to me about the candles, I realised that He needs me more than He needs a candle. He needs me to be in His presence more than anything.
- Build your relationship with God
We must build a relationship with God. We must not wait until after death or after our retirement but now. The question from God will ask you is, how much do you know me? Who is Christ for you? Has he become a friend to you? Is He your intimate friend? More than you, He’s trying to build a friendship, a relationship with you. So, what is the priority of your life? Is it Christ or the material things? And even when death comes, you will come to know that everything has an influence with God and if you don’t have a relationship with God, whatever you have gained will go in way.
I’m sure we all know the incident about the Titanic, the gigantic ship that sunk into the water. Well, when the ship was already sinking, lifeboats were thrown into the water. When the last lifeboat was about to be thrown into the water, a particular lady, before she could enter the lifeboat said, “Please give me some time. I want to take some precious things from my room. “Then the other people said, “There are only three minutes remaining. If you don’t come back in three minutes we are leaving. This lady then ran to collect her precious items that she wanted to collect, and they were all eagerly waiting for her. But everything was scattered. There were about two thousand people on the ship, and they had a lot of money, but they left everything behind for their life. This lady ran to her private room, where she had kept all her ornaments and jewels. She had some precious stones which she had collected on her journey. She opened all those things to find what she was looking for and when she found what she was looking for, she just took it and ran back to the lifeboat.
When she arrived back, everyone was shocked and surprised to see what she had ran to get back from her room- 3 oranges. She then said, “these are the only things that will help me on my journey back to the shore in this lifeboat.” So, what can we see here? The things that people held of value; the things that were precious had no value when facing death. She had jewels but she couldn’t eat jewels to keep her hunger away. These oranges were the only thing that she had that would give her life and prolong life on a lifeboat.
And so, the things that you hold precious is not precious at all. The relationships you hold as precious are not precious at all. Do you have a stronghold on Christ? If not, whatever you have gained is in vain. It will not help you. What about when you face a crisis? Covid-19 is a beautiful and powerful example sent by God. Covid-19 has taught us who is really for us. We had to even keep distance from our family members.
And so, we only know who everyone is only in a crisis. The Lord asks us today, “My son or my daughter do you know me? Do you know who I am? What kind of relationship do you have with me?” Maybe you had a relationship with God in the past 12 years, 13 years back but what is your position today? If you die today what will happen?
When we preached about the importance and relevance of the sacrament of confession, we repeatedly say a minimum of at least three times, “Remember you cannot go for a confession after your death.” As you read this, are you waiting to make a good confession after your death? After Jesus appears to you? It is impossible. Do you think that you can reconcile with your brother or your sister after Jesus has come knocking at your door? It is impossible. You cannot reconcile with your brother or your in-laws, who you haven’t spoken to for more than six-seven years, after death. This must happen now.
This is what we read in Matthew 24: 37, “For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” During that time all the people were enjoying, having parties, getting involved in the friendships, relationships, and gossips. Then the day came, they could not get saved, because He came in an unexpected way. In Matthew 24:27, “For as the lighting comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” This day will come like lightning from the East and flashes from the west, which means it will be sudden. Therefore, we need to have a strong relationship forever.
- Have a long-lasting relationship with God
We need to endure in our relationship with God. Maybe in the past we have had a profound relationship with God but today He invites you to have such a great relationship with Him until the end. This is also what we read in the Book of Daniel 12:12, “Happy are those who persevere and attain the thousand three hundred thirty-five days.” Remember these foolish five virgins, they had the lamp, they had the oil, but the problem was that it was not enough. You may be a prayerful person, you may be a Sunday Christian, you may have a relationship where you may be baptized but is it enough to take you up to heaven? Is it enough? The oil that you have, the grace that you have, the sacrament that you have, the relationship that you have-is it enough for you? If the Lord says, “I don’t know you!” It will be a shock to you. He will only say this if you don’t persevere. “Happy are those who persevere and attain the thousand three hundred thirty-five days.” 1335 is a symbolic word and number that we need to persevere.
In Matthew 24:13 we read, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” We cannot simply say, “I had a relationship with God.” But the real question is, is your faith an enduring faith? Maybe you are a prayerful person but is it then when your weak you don’t pray or when you’re tempted you don’t pray? If so, this means you don’t have an enduring relationship with God.
One day my spiritual father told me to pray and read the word of God. He gave me five scriptures and asked me to read each of it one hundred times a day. This was a few months after I became a priest. I told him “Father, I am in center where I need to hear confessions, I have a lot of other work, will it be possible?” Then he told me, “You can try for some time.” After a while I felt so angry with myself, I became very upset. Because five hundred times means, minimum of one and a half hour or two hours. Usually, I go to sleep by 11 o’clock or 12 o’clock so I felt this was a big burden. I was just sitting in the chapel and praying asking the Lord whether this was too much and how I could sleep. Someone had told me, if you don’t sleep enough, you may lose your memory, so you need to get a good rest. And so, all these things were coming to my mind. If I don’t sleep well, if I don’t take rest, what will happen? With all these confusions I was sitting before the Lord and the Lord said, “My son if you say you don’t have time, when you say that in the night you have to sleep, you have to know one thing. Don’t you know that I can give you ten hours of sleep in ten minutes? It is me who removes that struggle, the burden from your heart?” For in Psalm 4:8 we read, it is God who gives us sleep- “I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.” And so, if you are lying in bed and cannot go to sleep, know that it is God who gives you sleep. Just remember, the devil is a deceiver. We end up making so many excuses when it comes to prayer yet we have time to watch TV, we have time to watch football, computer games, we have time for our friends, parties and all kinds of entertainments, but prayer becomes boring for you. Well, the devil has already deceived you.
When the Lord comes back you cannot just say, “Oh, I was playing Lord, I was playing busy with computer games for three hours.” It would be such a shame. You cant say you were too busy watching movies or TV programs or Christian movies. We must have a relationship with God until death. God is saying, “My son, if you have time to play, time to talk, if you have time to eat, you must have time for me, you must have time for prayer.” If you have time to sleep, if you have time to eat, if you have time to speak, if you have time to gossip, you must have time to pray otherwise the devil is deceiving us.
Jesus is a living example of this. Morning, afternoon, evening, night, late night, mid-night, early morning He was in prayer. He is the most Holy God, King of Kings. Lord, of Lords, Prince of Peace, The Great I Am, yet He showed us how He had a relationship with His Father. In John 10:30, He said, “I and my Father are one.” That is the same relationship He wants from us. Can we say my Jesus and me are one? He wants us to have such a relationship. That’s the time He will look at us and say, “Now, I know this person, I know him, I know her.’ He wants us to have such a relationship. To have this relationship, we have to have an enduring relationship, an enduring friendship with God till the end. Not for just for a few days or few months. It’s okay to have other priorities and roles in life but the first and most important should be our relationship with God.
- Find your zeal to praise God in your own way
In the Gospel of Matthew 10: 22 we read, “And you may be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end, will be saved.” Maybe you are a zealous missionary today, but the Lord wants you to be a zealous missionary until the end.
I remember one experience I had in the retreat centre. Every day in the morning we had 6:30 am morning mass. We had team members staying inside the retreat center. Even though it was at 6:30, many of the members used to come late. A lay person was in charge and use to arrange everything and even he used to come late but I was new to this place. This took place on 8th December on the feast day of Immaculate Conception of Mother Mary. This day I had prepared a good homily and reached there before 6:30 but there were very few people. The person in charge had not yet come by 6:30 am and so I began to feel angry inside, yet I tried not to show it.
I told the Lord, “Lord, I think these people are not interested. So today I won’t say the homily. Why should I disturb them if they are not interested? That’s why they are not coming. “ As I was sitting and thinking this way inside, the Lord said, “My son, then what is the difference between you and these people? The same way they are hurting me by not coming on time is the same way you are hurting me by not preaching the homily. “My son is not them that I have to teach, it is you. They were full of zeal, full of love at the beginning. Eventually slowly, they became cold, they lost their zeal. My son, you will also fall into that same thing, even now you are thinking of not preaching the homily because some people have no zeal for me. Aren’t you also doing the same?” And that was the day the Lord taught me a prayer to pray every day, which is a private and personal prayer, which I pray – ‘My Lord, Jesus give me an unfailing zeal to serve you until my death’ Even today, I pray this prayer because the Lord taught me. “My son. Do you have an unfailing zeal for me? Do you have an enduring relationship with me?” You cannot just think of your friendship with me years back. Maybe in the past you spent three hours but are you giving me three hours today?
Blessed, Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to spend four hours before the Blessed Sacrament. She has congregation and communities in more than 171 nations all over the world. Somebody asked, how do you get all this time? Are you not so busy? How do you spend four hours? She said, I’m so busy, that is why I’m spending four hours. I cannot do anything without God. If I don’t spend time before God, I will not be able to do any work. This work is carried by God and by His grace.
Sisters and brothers let no one misguide us, we cannot boast about a past old relationship with our God when we do not have a fresh relationship with God. What if your wife gives you the same food, which was prepared two weeks back, you will get bored and you would even get tired of eating the same thing every day. One might even think of getting a divorce because they are constantly eating the same food from the freezer. The question is, do you give your God a new love? A new relationship? The specialty of God’s love is in Lamentations 3:22. He never gives us an old love. He gives us a love as fresh as this day- “The steadfast love of the lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
We had a retreat once in Freudenstadt, Germany. I didn’t know their hymns, so they asked me, “Father can you tell me the hymns that you prefer?” While speaking to her I came to know that the hymns that they sung were very old hymns. Then I asked them if they had any new hymns. They said that they only sang old hymns. I asked why and they said those were the only songs the people knew how to sing. I told her, “If you love God, you will compose new songs. You cannot serve God old food, old hymns. You have to serve God with new music. That is new love for the Lord, an unfailing love for the Lord. Do you think God deserves old food, old songs? If it is your birthday and you are presented with an old gift, it would be an insult. If you have a party and you serve old food, it is an insult. And so, we must give maximum glory to our God with new hymns.”
Today, sisters and brothers, the Lord is teaching us to have such a relationship with God where we can give Him all glory. Are we ready to have this with Him? Let us ask the Lord for an unfailing zeal, so that the Lord can never say that He doesn’t know us, like the five foolish virgins. Though God is full of mercy and compassion, they did not have a relationship with God and so God denied them. Today, God is telling us that we cannot borrow or buy someone else’ experience, we cannot keep holding on to the prayers of our mom and dad. If this is you and you are relying on someone else’s prayers, virtues and relationship with God- today is the day you step forth and enter into a personal, profound relationship with God. He is inviting you; the question is, will you accept?