'Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have died...' -- I Thes 4:14

We are approaching the end of the liturgical year, and the readings begin to reflect that this week.

The urgency of the message of Christ -- an urgency to which we may have become dull -- presents itself in all of Sunday's readings, especially in the Gospel parable of the 10 virgins, five foolish and five wise (Mt 25:1-13).

When the bridegroom appears after a delay, the five wise virgins are prepared to greet Him. They have brought extra oil for their lamps. The five foolish virgins did not bring extra oil and are not present when the bridegroom arrives, because they have gone to find oil. They are left outside.

What is the point of the parable? The person of Jesus Christ is the salvation of each of us. If we fail to respond to Him and prepare for His coming, we will hear for ourselves: "I do not know you." We, too, will be left out in the night.

Seek wisdom
The first and second readings also convey this message. Sunday's seemingly innocuous first reading (Wis 6:12-16) reminds us that wisdom must be sought. "She" (as wisdom is personified in the first reading) does not simply show up; rather, we must love wisdom, desire her, rise early and seek her, and be vigilant in order to safeguard her.

If we pursue wisdom, we will know how to prepare for the coming of the bridegroom.

The theme of vigilance is woven into the second reading from St. Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians (1 Thes 4:13-18). This is Paul's vivid imagery describing the second coming of Christ: "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first."

This is not a figment of a first-century Jewish imagination. The second coming of Christ, along with the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment: All of this will happen. Christ assured us of these things; it is part of our faith. It is not meant to scare us, but we must be ready.

Be vigilant
Finally, the theme of vigilance presents itself again in Sunday's Gospel. The bridegroom in the parable is Jesus, and His "return" is the Parousia, the second coming.

We know that the wise virgins are ready by their actions: They have their lamps; they bring extra oil; they rise promptly and trim their lamps at the proper time; they station themselves to greet the bridegroom.

When the foolish virgins ask for oil, the wise virgins refuse. This may seem harsh to us, but remember that this is a parable, and we are being taught a lesson. When your eternal salvation is at stake, you do not give it away in the final hours. You do not compromise what is essential; rather, you stay faithful until the end.

Notice that being wise and prepared for Jesus' arrival does not include knowledge of the day or the hour of His return. Rather, it is the vigilance, the seeking after wisdom, and the choices we make for Him that prepare us for Christ.

Jesus' response to the foolish virgins says it all: "Afterward, the other maidens came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us.' But he replied, 'Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.'" They come late because they were unprepared for His return. They were scrambling when the announcement came and they missed the moment.

Grace is like that. Conversion has its hour. Be ready when it is your turn.