In this week’s gospel reading at Mass, Jesus offered a parable about being prepared. He used a wedding feast to symbolize Heaven, and a bridegroom to symbolize Himself. No one knew when the bridegroom would arrive and begin the feast. Half the people were ready; the other half were not.
When the bridegroom finally came, Jesus explained, “Those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked.”
Later on, those who were unprepared came to the feast and tried to get in. They yelled, “Lord, Lord, open the door for us!” The bridegroom replied, “Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.”
Although we may not fully understand 1st century, middle-eastern wedding customs, we can understand Jesus’ main message. He is telling us we do not know when the most important day of our lives will come, but when it does come we had better be ready. If we’re ready, we’ll be invited in to an awesome party. If we’re not ready, the door will be locked and Jesus will say to us, “I do not know you.”
The most important day of our lives is a day most people dread, and a day many people can’t even admit will occur. It is the day we end our journey here on earth and stand face-to-face with God. It is the day of our death.
The letter to the Hebrews is crystal clear: “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.”
More often than not, people do not know when this most important day will arrive. It sometimes comes without warning, maybe with a deafening crash on the Interstate or chest pains while shoveling snow. For others, this most important day arrives with a quiet whimper, such as a bedside vigil at a hospice facility.
Whichever way it comes, that day will arrive for every single one of us. And when it does arrive, we either will be ready or we will not be ready.
Now, here’s the most important question: What exactly does it mean to be ready?
Jesus gives us a major clue in Matthew, chapter seven. While discussing this most important day, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father.”
Jesus then went on to offer the most chilling words in all of Scripture, which will be spoken to many people begging to be let in: “I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
Yikes! Not a pretty picture for those who are not ready.
There are two clear aspects to being ready. The first is knowing Jesus. Not knowing ABOUT Him, but rather, having a personal relationship WITH Him. God created us in the first place to be in fellowship with Him, as the Baltimore Catechism said: to know Him, love Him, and serve Him.
The second aspect of being ready is putting that relationship—that trusting faith—into action. This in not to say we have to work our way into Heaven, since no one is holy enough to do it on his or her own.
It means instead that our gratitude toward God—our joyful response to His incredible love and mercy—transforms our hearts and minds, and is expressed in righteous living. We do good things because we WANT to, not because we HAVE to.
We don’t need to be frightened of that most important day. If we have a relationship with Jesus—if we put our trust and faith in Him and let the Holy Spirit guide our lives—we can be confident the door will be opened and we will be invited in to the Heavenly banquet.