Friday, November 24, 2017

Jesus Christ, The King Of The Poor

Saint Francis of Assisi is one of the Church's most popular saints. With good reason he is considered the one saint whose life most resembled that of Christ. Of all the good works he performed, one kind deed especially stands out. Shortly after he decided to dedicate his life to God, he came upon a leper in the street. It was customary at the time for lepers to ring a bell to warn people that they were approaching. When the young Francis saw the leper's twisted body and open sores, he felt disgusted and revolted. But, just as suddenly, another feeling came over him. His heart was filled with compassion for the man's suffering. Overcoming his feelings of disgust, he rushed over to him and embraced him as a brother. Inspired by today's gospel reading, Saint Francis understood that it was Jesus he was holding in his arms.

Jesus tells us in today's gospel that we will be judged by how we treat the poor and needy in our midst. He does not tell us this story to scare us, but to encourage us. For, when we find the courage to reach our hand out to another in need, something incredible happens. We discover Jesus. As he says, "Whenever you did it for the least of these, you did it for me." Jesus still walks the earth in the form of the neediest among us.

In the first reading, the prophet Ezekiel blasts the "shepherds of Israel." They are both the political and spiritual leaders of the people who have used their authority and power to enrich themselves rather than to protect the sheep. God will not leave the sheep of his flock scattered, terrorized by predators and hungry. If the princes and priests of Israel will not lead, then God himself will come down to tend his sheep. God himself will protect them, feed them and heal them.

This prophecy finds its fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is God himself come down from heaven to guide his sheep to everlasting life. His message was not just that a better life was waiting for us in heaven. Rather, Jesus came to show us how even now we could experience the saving love of God. As he told the disciples of John the Baptist, "The blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them." With Jesus, the destructive effects of sin and death are being undone and the foundations of a new heaven and a new earth are being laid. It becomes real in the world today by the love which Christians show to those in need.

On this feast day, we proclaim the bold truth that Christ is King! As Saint Paul describes it for us in the second reading, Jesus by his death and resurrection has already won the victory over sin and death. Evil has already been defeated. That victory has been revealed to us through faith. It is hidden to give the world time to repent and to be saved. But the day is coming when Jesus' victory will be revealed once and for all. Then there will be no doubt. All people will have to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Until he comes again in glory, Jesus has left it to us to seek out and find those who are lost. Who in our life needs an encouraging word? Who in our life needs a friendly ear? Who in our life could use a visit? Who in our own home needs to know that they are loved and cared for? Like lost sheep, they will not come to us. If we are to live up to the challenge Jesus is giving us, we must go out to them. 

For Christians, salvation is not just a future event awaiting us after death or at the end of the world. Salvation and eternal life are here, today and now. What we as Christians seek to do is bring heaven and its promises down to earth. Jesus taught us to pray, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," and so we seek in everything we do to bring the love of Christ to those we meet.

Christ now reigns in heaven above. He has come to earth to bring hope and comfort to those who suffer. That same Christ is still among us hidden in the weak, the poor, the outcast and the sick. Saint John of the Cross said, "At the end of our lives, we will be judged on love." If we serve the suffering Christ in those we meet, we can be assured of reigning with Christ the King in his heavenly glory.  

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Small Gifts Of Inestimable Worth

Ernest Gordon was a young man from Scotland who fought in the Pacific theatre during World War II. While traveling from Singapore, he and several other soldiers were captured by the Japanese and sent to the infamous Kwai Valley to join a force of prison laborers building a railway from Thailand to Burma.

The conditions the workers endured during those years were inhumane and cruel. With little food and lacking adequate clothing, they labored from dawn until late in the evening. Because the guards were afraid that they would not meet the deadline imposed on them by the Japanese government for completing the railway, they would beat the prisoners mercilessly to get them to work even harder. Torture was common including hanging prisoners from trees by their thumbs, crushing their heads in vices and burying them alive.

Over 16,000 prisoners died during the construction of the railway. At first, the hope of one day returning home motivated the prisoners to stay alive. Soon, that hope gave way to hatred of their captors and,  later, hope gave way to despair. As Ernest Gordon related it to a journalist, “One grey day succeeded another. Misery, despair and death were our constant companions.”

Eventually, under the harsh conditions, Gordon fell victim to several ailments including malaria and tropical ulcer and was sent to a “death ward” where prisoners would go to die. It was there that he met three men who would change his life. They were devout Christians who sacrificed themselves to care for him and eventually save his life.

Every day, they boiled rags and applied them to his wounds. One of them, sold a watch to buy medicine for him. Often, they would go without food themselves so that he could eat. Though Gordon had experienced nothing but cruelty and torture during his captivity, a light of hope was beginning to shine for him in what had been a living hell.

It became clear to him that what motivated these men to sacrifice themselves to save him was their Christian faith and convictions. Though Gordon had been an agnostic, he embraced Christianity because of their example and started to join them in prayer and good works.

Eventually, Gordon recovered from his illness and regained his strength. When the other prisoners saw that he had not died, the morale among them greatly improved and a new hope motivated them to endure the degrading conditions of the camp. The prisoners began doing good deeds for one another, joining together in prayer and helping one another with their work. As they shared the gospel with one another, they even found the grace to forgive their captors and witness to the guards.

Ernest Gordon survived those difficult years of captivity and was eventually rescued by allied troops. After the war, he became a Presbyterian minister and the chaplain at Princeton University. He tells the story of those years in the book, Through the Valley of the Kwai which was made into a movie in 2001 entitled, To End All Wars.

Ernest Gordon’s conversion experience is a beautiful and moving illustration of today’s gospel message.

The prisoners had very little to give. They were all struggling under the same harsh conditions. However, instead of keeping the little they did have to themselves, they sought to serve one another. Who knows how many lives were saved because of the sacrifices that the prisoners made on a daily basis to treat each other’s wounds and raise each other’s spirits. In particular, the prisoner who sold his watch to buy medicine for Gordon illustrates how much good comes from a small kindness. Who knows where that watch is today? But we are still inspired by the charity which moved him to sell it.

Hearing Jesus’ words in today’s gospel, we might think that we have too little to give. We might wonder what good we could possibly do in a world with so much need. We might even fear that if we give what we have there will not be enough left over for us.

However, it is often true that, those with the least to give make the biggest difference. Besides, the greatest acts of kindness are often those which do not require money or special talents. They are the smiles that we give to strangers to let them know that they are welcome. They are the pats on the back we give to our friends to let them know they have our support. They are stopping for a few minutes to listen to a neighbor who  is having a hard time. These small acts do not cost a dime yet they pay inestimable dividends.

We live in a world in which there is much neglect and cruelty. However, our world suffers perhaps not so much from the evil done but from the good that so many fail to do. Inspired by Jesus’ message and the witness of people like Ernest Gordon, let us go from this place intent on doing what good we can, no matter how small it may seem. As we receive the greatest small gift of all - the Body and Blood of Christ - let us ask God to put His love into our hearts so that we will be generous in giving of ourselves to others. Then despair will give way to hope and hate will give way to love. The light shining forth from our good deeds will light the way forward for others. And, when we appear before Jesus, the Just Judge, we will see how our good works were multiplied over and over again to the glory of God, the Father. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

A Master Who Is Generous

Does the parable in today’s gospel make you feel uneasy? Did it make you think about all you have been given and what use you have made of it? Did it make you wonder why some people have so much and others have so little?

If you did react in any of those ways, it is completely natural. That is why Jesus spoke in parables so frequently. He wanted to shake us out of our complacency. He wanted to challenge the way we look at ourselves, at the world and at God. He wanted to prod us into seeing reality the way that our Heavenly Father does so that we will change our lives accordingly. By their nature, parables are meant to leave us with more questions than answers.

The main point of today’s parable seems clear - we will be judged according to our use of the talents God has given us. But if we reflect closely on Jesus’ words there are some even deeper insights we can gain into the spiritual life and our relationship with God.

The first point is how generous God is.

In the parable, the king gives his servants five, two and one talents. In Jesus’ day, a talent was the largest denomination of money. It was reserved mostly for government transactions. Therefore, the king was not entrusting his servants with token amounts of money, but what would have been vast sums that could have potentially bankrupted him. The king himself was taking a risk in entrusting these talents to his servants.

In the same way that the king was generous in entrusting talents to his servants so our Heavenly Father is generous with His gifts to us. Before we ever can give an account of what we have done with His gifts, we first have to make an inventory of just how much He has given us. It all starts with the gift of life. None of us asked to be born. Our life and everything that goes along with it are a pure gift of God’s generous love.

We were then blessed to be born into a family of people who cared for us and nurtured us when we were at our most vulnerable. None of our families were perfect, but we would not be here if they did not care for us to the best of their abilities. It was in our families that we learned what true love was and how to nurture relationships with others. By having families of our own, many of us have passed that gift of life and love on to others, sharing in God’s creative love.

For most of us, the gift of faith would have been given to us through the witness of our families. They were the ones who had us baptized, who insisted that we attend Mass and live the values of the gospel until we were mature enough to see the truth and value of it for ourselves. That faith has been with us carrying us through the hard times and making our joy complete in good times.

Then we have our  individual abilities and gifts. We have skills, material wealth and prosperity, health, strength, vigor, charisma and other character traits that come naturally to us as part of our personality. Even physical beauty is a gift of God. All these traits can be put to use to build up God’s Kingdom. Along with life, family and faith they are entrusted to us so that we can do our Heavenly Father’s will.

When we consider all that God has given us, it will be natural for us to feel grateful. However, through the parable, Jesus wants us to take it one step further. He wants us to consider how we can put all those gifts to the service of God’s Kingdom. How can we make the world a better place, a place of welcome for the poor and vulnerable, a place of justice for the oppressed, a place of love for the rejected? He wants to challenge us to see our unique skills and abilities not as ways to build up our self-esteem but as means to build up His Church.

The second point of the parable is not only that God is generous but that His gifts to us are multiplied when we put them to use.

In the parable, the good servants were able to double their investments. Not only that, but the servant with the ten talents was given the talent of the lazy servant. In the same way, when we take the risk of sharing what we have with others, our total is not diminished but increased. In God’s calculus, the more we give, the more we have.

The best example of this is love. When I take the risk of loving another person I do not end up with less love to give away. Rather I experience the joy that comes with sharing my heart with another person and so I have the courage to take the risk again and again. As light grows stronger when it is passed from one candle to another, so the gift of love multiplies as we give it away.

The same is true of all God’s gifts, even material ones like food and money. Like the wicked servant in the parable, we may want to hold back out of fear. We may want to keep what we have buried so that we will not lose it. But in doing so we are only cheating ourselves of the other blessings God wants to shower on us.

God has blessed each one of us generously. Take some time this week to make an inventory of every blessing in your life. Ask God how He expects you to put them to use for His Kingdom. If we can respond generously and courageously to His will, we will find even more blessings flowing from His hand. Then, at our Master’s return, we can feel confident that we will enter into His joy.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Time's A'Wastin'

There is no avoiding it. It will happen to all of us no matter how rich or poor, no matter what we believe or do not believe, no matter how long we may have lived. All of us will one day stand before the judgement seat of God. At that time, we will be asked to give an account of our lives. How have we used all the gifts we have been given? Did we put them to use in service of God and others or did we hide them out of fear?

It is not something we like to think about. All of us have made mistakes in our lives. We have all made choices that we regret. Most of us, if we could turn back the clock, would have made different choices. But that is not possible. We have to live with the consequences of our past actions and go into the future resolved to do better with God’s help.

At the same time, as we look back on our lives, we see good choices that we have made. There were times when we could have been selfish but chose to be generous instead. There were times when we could have looked the other way when someone needed us, but we chose to lend a hand instead. There were times when we opened our minds and hearts to God and were filled with His light. Those choices have brought many blessings into our lives and perhaps into the lives of others in ways we cannot even imagine.

Each of us is a mixture of strengths and weaknesses, triumphs and failures, saintliness and sinfulness. None of us is totally blameless but neither do we deserve a blanket condemnation. By God’s grace, we are what we are. And each of us for the most part is striving to do the best we can with the gifts God has given us.

It does happen, however, that we can grow complacent. We get into a rut of just trying to get by. Life can seem so overwhelming at times that we shut down and do as little as we can to make it through. When that happens, we lose the big picture. Our life becomes just a series of disconnected days. Before we know it, we have lost time and lost ourselves. Like the servant who buried his talent, we let fear and anxiety keep us from investing our gifts and yielding a rich return.

That is why is it is important for us to remember that all this will not last forever. We will not get a second chance. This day and this time in our lives will never return. We will not be able to redo or undo the choices we make today. We must live this day well if the rest of our lives is to go well. We are building tomorrow on the choices we make today.

Jesus did not die on the cross for us so that we could just make it through life. Instead He wants us to live a full and abundant life. He wants our homes and our hearts to be full of peace, love and joy. He wants to pour out His blessings on us and our loved ones so that we can be radiant with all the gifts and talents He has prepared for us. When we are afraid or when we are willing to settle with just getting by, however, we cannot receive all that He has in store for us. When we bury our gifts and refuse to put them to use in service of God and others, then we cannot receive the dividends of peace, joy and love.

It is natural for us to wonder what talents we have been given and how we should use them for God. It is not always apparent to us. Many times others notice them in us before we see them in ourselves. There is really only one way to find out. First, we must pray to God and ask Him to reveal to us the gifts He has given us and how He expects us to use them to help build His Kingdom. However, we cannot sit around waiting for an answer. Instead, we must get busy doing whatever we can, taking advantage of whatever opportunities are in front of us to volunteer or to help out. Only then, by trial and error,  will we begin to discover how we are called to serve God and others. As we make the effort to serve, our talents will become clearer to us. Only by taking the risk of failing or looking foolish can we invest our talents and reap an abundant reward.

Life goes by very quickly. Time slips through our fingers often without our even noticing it. Nonetheless we can be deceived into thinking we have plenty of time to change the things in our lives that we know are not pleasing to God. But we have much less time than we think. The longer we wait, the fewer opportunities for doing good we will have. And, as Christians, we know better. Jesus told us that He would be coming at a time we would not expect. Today is the only day we have. Let us live it to the fullest by giving all we have and all we are to our Heavenly Father. Then we can stand before God not with fear but with confidence and hear Him say to us, “Come, share your master’s joy.”

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Polishing Off The Antiques

The Antiques Roadshow has been one of the most popular programs on public television over the past several years. The show follows experts as they go around the country appraising the antiques people have in their homes. It is a delight to watch the shock and surprise registering on people's faces when they learn that an item which they may have purchased for a few dollars at a yard sale or at the corner store is really worth thousands. Their small investment increased significantly in value. It makes one wonder what treasures we may have stored in our attics or basements.

In today's gospel, Jesus tells the story of three men who are entrusted with a treasure by their king who is going on a journey. Jesus calls the treasure they are given "talents", which was an ancient measure of silver roughly equivalent to 90 pounds. The English word "talent" meaning a special ability is taken from this ancient word. Though the king is gone only a short period of time, two of the men are able to double their money by investing it. How were these men able to be so successful? First of all, they recognized the value of the treasure which had been entrusted to them and knew that the best use of it was to invest it. Secondly, they understood that the treasure belonged to the king and not to them, and that they would have to give it back some day. They were convinced that the king would want his treasure back with interest. They were not willing to let the treasure gather dust, unlike the third man who buried his talent in the ground out of fear.

Jesus' meaning could not be clearer. Each of us has been entrusted with a treasure by God, and God expects us to make good use of it. During this week, each of us will have to examine our own conscience to determine what that treasure is and how we can multiply it for the glory of God. Today's readings, however, suggest to us two treasures which all of us share and which we can so often take for granted like valuable antiques gathering dust in our attics. They are, namely, our family and our time.

The first reading from the book of Proverbs is a poem praising a good wife whose "value is beyond pearls". Pearls were among the scarcest and most valuable items in the ancient world. In essence, the poem is saying that there is nothing more valuable than a good wife. By extension, our families are the most valuable treasure entrusted to us by God.

We see how true this is throughout Scripture. In the ten commandments, the first three spell out our obligations to God. The very next commandment, the fourth, commands that we honor our father and mother. Except for our obligations to Almighty God, our obligation to our family is first and foremost.
It is often said that charity begins at home. The home is a school where children are taught to love and serve God. Whether we are parents or children, the home is the place where we learn to become holy. In fact, families which eat at least one meal together daily, pray and go to Mass together have practically a zero percent divorce rate. Our homes must be places where God is honored if our marriages are to be strong and our children are to grow in virtue. And that means they must be more than just the place where we eat and sleep in between our jobs, our classes and our other activities. Our homes must be the place where we pray, where we come to love and understand each other, and where we practice kindness and generosity.

The second treasure we have all been entrusted with is our time. In today's second reading, Saint Paul warns us that the time is short. The day of the Lord is coming at a time we cannot know. Whether the "day of the Lord" is the end of the world or our own death, it is closer today than it was yesterday. All of us would agree that time is something we all take for granted. We assume that we have plenty of it. And yet, we are shocked by how quickly it passes and that Thanksgiving is less than one week away. 

So, if we were to turn off the television, computer and cellphone, what could we do with the extra hours we would have in our day? We could go for a walk with our spouse. We could go to the park with our children or grandchildren. We could spend time marveling at the beauty of God's creation. We could read the Bible and pray. We could go out for ice cream. We could go to daily Mass.

The Danish author, Karen Blixen, once wrote: "Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before, how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way, and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever..." The world is full of much beauty for us to discover and our families full of much love for us to share.

Our family and our time are among the treasures God has given us for our enjoyment and for his glory. The way a valuable antique can get lost in the clutter of our attics, they can get overlooked because of the hectic pace of modern life. How our lives would be blessed if our families were to continually grow in love and faith! How rich we would be if we used our time to be continually mindful of God's presence! How glorious it would be to stand before God and hear him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant", because we were able to recognize the value of all the gifts he has given us and to return them to him with interest!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Jesus - The Best Investment

Thanks to advances in medicine and technology, people are living to a much older age. Whereas life expectancy for those alive during the 1960’s was about seventy years, people living today can expect to live well into their eighties and even into their nineties.

While the prospect of enjoying a longer life is certainly a blessing, it also presents many challenges to us as individuals and as a society.

When faced with many years of retirement, most people wonder whether they have saved enough money to last them all that time. Though we would all like to spend our last dollar with our last breath, none of us can know how long our lives will be. How will we know whether we have put enough aside and when we can stop working?

And, how should we allocate the money we are able to save? What percentage of it should be in cash and how much should remain invested in bonds? What will happen to our savings if interest rates go down or if the stock market takes a dive? What effect will taxes and inflation have on our nest egg?

Also, what will happen to us if we get sick and need extensive hospital care? Who will take care of us when we are no longer able to take care of ourselves? And, who will pay for it all?

None of us has a crystal ball to see into the future. Not knowing what will happen makes planning that much more difficult.

Though we have been talking about planning for retirement, our readings today point us to an even more urgent reality awaiting us in the future - the coming of the Lord. None of us knows when Jesus will come again in glory. However, one thing is for sure, it will change whatever plans we have for the future. Jesus makes it clear to us that the future is in God’s hands. However, like the wise virgins in the parable, we have to be prepared to wait a long time and have to be vigilant so that we can enter into the heavenly banquet when He does arrive.

Interestingly, many of the same obstacles that keep us from planning well for retirement can also keep us from planning well to meet the Lord.

The first obstacle is denial. Some people just do not want to think about having to stand face to face before Jesus to be judged by Him. The thought of it is just too alarming to consider. Also, many people wrongly believe that Jesus will not judge us but will simply welcome us into heaven no matter what type of life we have lived.

Of course, such an illusion is contrary to what Jesus Himself taught. In fact, every Sunday we profess in the creed that “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” And that judgment will be no simple pat on the back. If we have failed to show love to our neighbor, then we can expect to hear the fearful words that Jesus speaks in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats: “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

If we are under the illusion that Jesus will not judge us, we had better wake up. If we are going to stand before Him on that day, we have to prepare by repenting of our sins today. We have to go to confession regularly - at least once a month - to unburden ourselves of the guilt we have committed and to find the strength to resist temptation in the future. And we have to show love to our neighbors by practicing works of mercy. If we do all this with love and faith, then we will be prepared to meet Him when He comes.

Another obstacle to preparing ourselves to meet the Lord is complacency. We think we have plenty of time to change our lives and are in no hurry. Whereas the virgins in Jesus’ parable thought the bridegroom would be coming sooner than expected, we are not expecting Jesus to come anytime soon. Therefore, we think we can put off conforming our minds and hearts to His word.

If we are under the illusion that we have plenty of time, we had better wake up. Even if the end of the world is still a long ways off, we do not know how close we are to our own death. It is likely that we have far less time than we think. We have to be prepared today to meet the Lord because we do not know when we will draw our last breath.

Finally, another obstacle that keeps us from being prepared to meet the Lord is investing our time and energy in the wrong things. Just as people can jeopardize their retirement by putting their money in the wrong investments, so we can jeopardize our salvation by investing ourselves in the wrong pursuits. If we have spent our lives seeking pleasure, power over others, status and money, then we will not be prepared to meet Jesus. Who of us can impress the Lord of all creation with our fancy titles or accomplishments? What Jesus will be looking for from us instead  is an accounting of how we loved our neighbor. If we gave our time and talents to feeding the hungry, praying for sinners, advocating for the powerless and being patient with those who irritate us, we can be sure that our investment will pay off dividends good for eternal life.

All of us will one day stand before the Lord to give an account of the good and the evil that we have done. None of us has a crystal ball to tell us how much time we have left. Therefore, if we are going to be prepared to meet Him, we have to shake off the denial and complacency that fool us into thinking that we do not have to deal with it. If we live each day conscious of the account that we will have to give to Jesus, then we do not have to worry about facing Him after death. After all, He died so that we might have eternal life. At the same time, however, He is a just judge.

Let today be the day when we earnestly seek Him so that we will not be a stranger to Him when we meet Him face to face. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Leaving A Light On

If we are home and are expecting one of our family members to be coming home late, we usually leave the light on over the front door. We do the same if we are expecting visitors after dark. Leaving a light on lets visitors know that they are welcome, that we have been expecting them. When we leave the light on for our children who are out late, it lets them know that we are concerned for them and that we will not be able to rest until they are back home safe with us. Keeping a light burning on the porch or in a window is a simple but powerful symbol of how we are looking forward to welcoming our loved ones home.

What would happen if we were expecting a visitor after dark and we either forgot to turn the light on outside or the bulb burned out? The person we are expecting might think that no one was home or that we were already in bed. They might think that we had forgotten that they were coming or that we had changed our minds about having them over. Thinking we were not home, they would have no choice but to continue on their way. All the while we would be waiting inside wondering why they had not arrived yet. Because we failed to keep the light burning outside, we would have missed our chance to spend time with our friend.

Much the same thing happens in today’s gospel. Ten young women are waiting for the arrival of the groom. In the culture of Jesus’ day, weddings were major social events. It was often at weddings that young men and women would have the opportunity to meet each other and fall in love. So for a young woman who was anxious to be married, a wedding was the most important event of the year. To miss it could mean losing the chance to meet a husband. So they were all excited about the arrival of the groom.

The difference between the sensible women and the foolish women was simply that the foolish women expected the groom to be on time while the sensible women planned for a delay. And so, when the groom finally arrives late in the evening, the sensible women are prepared to welcome him while the foolish ones are out trying to find oil for their torches. They are not there when the groom arrives, and he has no other choice but to pass them by and lock them out of the festivities. The foolish women would have felt devastated. They had been planning all year for this wedding, but they were left out in the cold simply because they were not prepared to meet the groom when he finally arrived. They could not keep their torches burning, so the wedding party moved along without them.

Like the young women in Jesus’ parables, we too are waiting.  We are waiting for Jesus to pass by. As today’s psalm says so beautifully, our soul thirsts for the living God and our body pines for God our Saviour. The deepest yearning of our heart is for union with the God who created us. Sometimes we do not recognize it. Sometimes we mistake it for a desire for success or material possessions or human love. But it is a desire that stays with us nonetheless. It is a fire that burns within us.

The saddest thing that could happen to any one of us would be to miss the opportunity to meet the one our heart longs for, to miss the opportunity to meet Jesus. How could that happen? It could happen in hundreds of ways throughout our day. It could happen if we do not make time to pray during the day. Then we would be missing out on an insight or a grace that Jesus would otherwise want to give us. It could happen if we ignore someone who needs our help. Then we would be missing out on the opportunity to serve Jesus who continues to suffer in the poor and needy. It could happen to us if we allow ourselves to fall to temptation and sin. Then we would be turning off the light, locking the door and telling Jesus that He is not welcome in our lives. How sad would that be?

Instead we have to keep the light burning brightly over the door of our hearts. We have to let Jesus know that we are expecting Him and that we are ready to welcome Him. Because we do not know when He will come to visit us and because He always visits us in a disguise, we have to be ready to keep our torches burning for a long time. We have to fuel our lamps with prayer, with good works and with the sacraments. In particular, reading the Bible everyday will help train us to recognize the Lord in the ordinary circumstances of our lives and teach us how to respond to Him with love and generosity.

Like the young women in Jesus’ parable, none of us knows when Jesus will be coming to visit. However, we do know that it will be at a time that we do not expect and it will be in a disguise. What we do know is that we want to be ready to open our arms and welcome Him. We want our lamps to be burning brightly so that He knows we are waiting for Him eagerly.

At Mass today, we will have a privileged opportunity to receive a visit from Jesus, one that we can easily recognize and prepare for. Jesus Himself will be coming to us in the form of bread and wine. We know it to be the Body and Blood of our Lord. Let us ask the Father to give us souls that yearn for this living bread and hearts that burn to be united to Jesus. Let us not miss this opportunity to welcome the One our body pines for.