In this week’s gospel reading, Jesus offers a parable about being prepared. He uses a wedding feast to symbolize Heaven, and a bridegroom to symbolize Himself. In the parable, no one knows when the bridegroom will arrive and begin the feast. Half the people are ready; the other half are not (“foolish,” Jesus calls them).
When the bridegroom finally comes, Jesus explains, “Those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked."
Later on, those who were unprepared come to the feast and knock on the door. They yell, “Lord, Lord, open the door for us!” The bridegroom replies, “Amen, I say to you, I do not know you."
Although we may not fully understand 1st century, middle-eastern wedding customs — with friends of the bride (the virgins) and lamps and oil and waiting up all night for the groom to arrive and start the party — we still can understand Jesus’ main message. He is telling us that we do not know when the most important day of our lives will come, but when it does come we had better be ready. If we’re ready, we’ll be invited in to an awesome party. If we’re not ready, the door will be locked and Jesus will say to us, “I do not know you.”
The most important day of our lives is a day most people dread, and a day many people can’t even admit will occur. It is the day we end our journey here on earth and stand face-to-face with God. It is the day of our death.
The letter to the Hebrews is crystal clear: “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Heb 9:27).
More often than not, people do not know when this most important day will arrive. It comes without warning. For some unfortunate souls, this most important day arrives with striking suddenness: a deafening crash on the Interstate or massive chest pains while shoveling snow. For others, this most important day arrives with a quiet whimper: a bedside vigil at a nursing home or hospice facility.
However it comes, that day will arrive for every single one of us. And when it does arrive, we either will be ready or we will not be ready.
Now, here is the most important question about this most important day: What exactly does it mean to be ready?
There are two clear aspects to being ready. The first is knowing Jesus. Not knowing about Him, but rather, having a personal relationship with Him. God created us in the first place to be in fellowship with Him, as the Baltimore Catechism said, to know Him, love Him, and serve Him.
Putting our faith in the Lord is much more than acknowledging His identity and accepting that He did what the Bible claims He did. Faith involves trust, it involves reliance, it involves relationship.
The second aspect of being ready is putting that relationship — that trusting faith — into action. This is not to say we have to work our way into Heaven; no one is holy enough to do it on their own.
It means instead that our gratitude toward God — our loving response to His incredible love and mercy toward us — transforms our hearts and minds, and is expressed in righteous living. We do good things because we want to, not because we have to.
We don’t need to be frightened of that most important day. If we have a relationship with Jesus, if we put our trust and faith in Him and let the Holy Spirit guide our lives, we can be confident the door will be opened and we will be invited in.
Ironically, the more we understand that our time here on earth is exceedingly brief and the more we are prepared to meet God, the more we can relax and enjoy these precious days and years. It’s a win-win situation: joy and peace during this life, and a heavenly wedding feast for all of eternity in the next life.