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).