Are you ready ‘to stand before the Son of Man?’ (Lk 21:36). This is perhaps the only question  that is   relevant in the life of a Christian. If we are ready, our seats in the Lord’s banquet are assured. If we are  not ready, someone else will take our place. Chances are that many of the   original invitees will fail to make it to the banquet. Jesus himself  has  said it.  ‘For I tell you, none of those who were  invited will taste my dinner’ (Lk 14:24).

Being in a state of preparedness at all  times is a recurring theme in the teachings of Jesus. ‘Blessed is that slave  whom his master will find at  work when he arrives’ (Lk 12:43). This slave was so watchful as to  open the  door for his master if he came during the middle of the night, or near dawn’ (Lk 12:38). Jesus just knocks at the door. It is our duty to open  it. ‘Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you  and eat with you, and you with me’ (Rev.3:20).

We do like  to eat with the  Lord, but the practical difficulty is that  we do not  know the exact time he is going to return. Otherwise we could have made at least some last minute preparations. So  the  only practical and possible solution is to be  ready every moment. Let the master come any time,  be it during the middle of the night, or near  dawn.

Grace is what keeps us watchful even at odd hours. Being prepared means that we should be  in a state of grace at all times. Grace is a free gift from God and He is generous in  distributing it to all those  who ask. At the beginning of our journey He gives it in Baptism. During  lifetime, He gives it  whenever we   receive sacraments, especially the  Holy Eucharist and Confession. And by the  end of the journey, grace is there again in the  form of Anointing the Sick, that will safely  take us to the shores of a blissful eternity. Our duty is  so simple. Just cooperate with grace. It is sufficient  for us. ‘My grace is  sufficient for you’  (2 Cor 12:9).

Jesus asks as  just one thing. Keep sufficient oil in our lamps so that they  do not  go out at night. Indeed  all those ten bridesmaids knew that the   bridegroom was  expected  in the night.   Five of them forgot to  take  oil with  them.  They didn’t know  that  they were entering a  ‘night when no one can work’ (Jn 9:4). The oil of grace  was never in short supply, but the  dealer was away.  And night was  not the right time to go and buy it.

Again the  only  practical solution is to keep awake at all times, ‘for you know neither the day nor the hour’ (Mt 25:13). Grace is what supports us to  keep awake even  during the  ‘dark nights of the soul’. When  Eve  forgot that she was  living in grace,  she started listening to the words of the  serpent.  When Judas forgot that he was sitting close to the  throne  of grace (Heb 4:16) ‘he immediately  went out, and it was night’ (Jn 13:30). It is the tragedy of any person who  ‘spurns the  Son of God, profane the blood of covenant by which they were sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of  grace’ (Heb 10:29).

Grace is the most  precious thing in the whole world. And those who find  the field where it is hidden ‘goes and sells all that he has  and buys that land’ (Mt 13:44). Those who  fail to find it  go on as usual and say, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ (Lk 12:45). But the master will definitely come one day. And it will be ‘on  a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know’(Lk 12:46). The master  ‘will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful’ (Lk 12:45-46).

Live with grace, live in grace, and  enter the  banquet of the Lord, or leave grace, live in sin and  get ready to  be driven out  of God’s garden. Choice is ours. May Lord Jesus Christ  shower grace in abundance on all of us  so that we may be ever ready to answer the Lord’s call. May he find us watchful when  he returns, be it  in the middle of the night or  near dawn.  May the oil of  grace in our lamps last through the  night into the dawn when  the  ‘sun of righteousness shall rise’ (Mal 4:2).