Today Catholic Christians celebrate the Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time.
As we get close to the end of the Church Year, the Church has chosen selections from Scripture that serve as reminders to us of our own mortality and the need to be prepared.
In the reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians (4: 13-18), for example, we hear that we are not to grieve like unbelievers who have no hope. On the contrary, we need to rejoice that we will always be with the Lord in the afterlife.
And in the Gospel of today from St. Matthew (25: 1-13), we hear the parable of the Ten Virgins. In the story, a bridegroom went on a journey, and ten virgins were left behind to wait for his return. While waiting for the bridegroom to return, it grew late, and the ten virgins fell asleep. Five of the virgins were wise, for they had prepared in advance to have extra oil for their lanterns. Thus, when the bridegroom returned, they were able to greet the bridegroom appropriately. As a result, the bridegroom welcomed them into the feast.
The other five virgins, however, were not wise, and they ran out of oil. Unfortunately for them, instead of welcoming them to share in his feast, the bridegroom said, “Amen, I do not know you.”
At the end of the parable, Jesus told his disciples, “Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25: 13).
These readings are designed to remind us that we, too, will one day die, and therefore each of us should be prepared.
Before examining this concept more closely, let’s look at the following story by Scott Brewer called “Being Prepared for Life and Death.”
On November 6, 2008, a seventh grader at Redmond (Washington) Junior High School named Levi Pocza collapsed in his physical education class. After checking Levi’s pulse, Levi’s teacher, Chris Broderick, and school principal, Prato Barone, began administering CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) while the office staff called 911. Meanwhile, the football coach, Scott Hagerman, ran to get the school’s automated external defibrillator (AED). Fortunately for Levi, the football coach had just had training to use the AED and knew how to use it.
The staff shocked Levi with the AED, and for the next eight minutes, they did CPR. When the ambulance arrived, the emergency staff continued the CPR. Thanks to everyone’s preparedness, Levi suffered no brain damage.
None of this beautiful success story would have been possible, however, if the staff had not had the AED. Fortunately, a few years before our story took place, a man named Scott had come to a Rotary Club to talk to them about how important it was that schools all have AEDs available for emergencies. Scott told the Rotarians that a few years before, a young student named Sean had died, and he would still be alive if his school had had an AED on site.
Thanks to Scott’s words, the Rotary Club sprang into action to raise funds to meet the goal of putting an AED into every high school and junior high school in the Lake Washington School District.
Soon, the Seattle Mariners baseball team donated many autographed memorabilia to be auctioned off to raise funds.
The author of the story ends up by writing, “I know that someday every one of us will have our heart stop beating and we will be ushered from this life into the next. We will stand before a holy God for a day of accountability. Some will hear, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into your reward.’ Others will hear, Depart from me, for I never knew you.’”
From the Scripture passages of today and the story of providing schools in Redmond, Washington with automated external defibrillators, we can learn many things. Here are just three.
First, all of us will one day die, so we need to be prepared for that day. Former President Jimmy Carter said it best when he said, “We should live our lives as though Crist was coming this afternoon.” We prepare spiritually by praying to God each day, living our vocations as best we can, and by putting our faith into action by showing love to our neighbors and our selves.
Second, we need to keep in mind that the ultimate goal that each of us should have is to become saints. A saint is someone who is in heaven for all eternity. If we have great successes in this life, but are not with the Lord in the afterlife, all would be for naught. Catholic Christians pray for the salvation of all people, not just for people who think like they do.
And third, although our ultimate goal is a spiritual one, wise and prudent adults take steps to prepare for the eventual death of their body. For example, they have life insurance policies in place that will pay for their funeral expenses and loved ones. They have wills, various power-of-attorney papers, living wills to direct health care providers what they want in case they are not able to make final health care decisions, and the like. Furthermore, they have updated beneficiary lists and an executor of their estate who knows where all their important papers are.
As we continue our life journeys this week, it would be a good idea to see how prepared we are as we transition from this life to the next.
And that is the good news I have for you on this Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017.
Story source: Scott Brewer. “Being Prepared for Life & Death,” Reflections, 17