Father Vincent Hawkswell

We must be ready to meet him when he comes again

Voices Nov. 10, 2017

Willam Blake depicts the Parable of the Ten Virgins, in his work Wise And Foolish Virgins (c. 1826 ). Father Vincent Hawkswell writes, "We must always be ready" to meet Christ, just as the parable teaches. “Be watchful and ready: you do not know when the Son of Man is coming.”

32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A
First Reading: Wis 6:13-17
Second Reading: 1 Thes 4:13-18
Gospel Reading: Mt 25:1-13

The remaining three Sundays of the Church’s liturgical year all look toward Christ’s second coming. We celebrate it two weeks from now, on the Feast of Christ the King.

We must always be ready to meet him, this Sunday’s liturgy stresses. “Be watchful and ready: you do not know when the Son of Man is coming.” It quotes the Book of Wisdom, which urges us to think about spiritual things: why we were created, whether there is a God and, if so, how we should relate to him.

Wisdom is a free gift from the Holy Spirit. She is “easily discerned by those who love her and is found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her. One who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty” (Wis 6:12-14).

As Catholics, we know our physical death is not a final end, but only the beginning of life in our true homeland. If we are wise, we will live accordingly.

When our earthly life comes to an end, we will come face to face with Christ. Will we be ready? Will we be prepared?

In 1981, very suddenly, four members of the George family were drowned in M Creek on the way back from Squamish. Ross and Molly George had been celebrating their silver wedding anniversary. Death was perhaps the last thing in their minds that night as they drove home and found the bridge washed out.

A priest I knew as a boy in England was thrown over the handlebars of his bike when he was struck by a car. Reflecting on the incident, he said there had been no thought of God in his mind as he flew through the air.

St. Thomas More, writing as a prisoner in the Tower of London, describes a man who is condemned to death, but whose sentence is put off for five years. In the meantime, he is given the freedom of a great estate, which, nevertheless, is fenced round; he cannot possibly escape.

What would we think of such a man, St. Thomas asks, if he forgot the fence and the sentence of death and behaved like a free man who would live forever? Would we not despise him for a fool?

Every one of us is in the same boat. We are all condemned to die. Nothing is more certain than our own death. Our enjoyment of the unending life after death depends on how we live our comparatively short life now. If we are wise, we will contemplate this reality and act accordingly.

In the third Eucharistic Prayer, the priest says, “As we celebrate the memorial of the saving Passion of your Son, ... and as we look forward to his second coming, we offer you in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice.” In every Mass, after the Lord’s Prayer, he says, “we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

Do we, really?

How would we feel if we were told we were going to find Jesus waiting for us in the vestibule on the way out of church? Would we rush to meet him? Would be scared? Would we feel unworthy? Would we want him to wait, to give us more time?

Are there things in this world we still want to do? If so, will they make us more ready to meet Christ? If not, are they really worth doing?

We should meditate on our own death. We should ask God to make us, truly, at all times, ready to welcome Christ when he comes for us.

This Sunday, let us pray for those who are going to die in the next 24 hours. Perhaps it will be people in the same church, at the same Mass with us. Perhaps it will be us, ourselves.

If we are wise, we will make sure we are ready.