This is a crucial question that we hardly address, while the Lord Himself, in the Gospel, urges us to address a very close issue: in Matthew, chapter 25:1-13 the Lord tells us a parable, the so called parable of the 10 virgins. The lesson of this parable is given in the end of the parable: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour”.
The frame of the parable is: “meeting the Bridegroom” when He comes back. In order to “be there” when He comes back, one has to “keep watch”, to remain alert, to be ready (the oil), in order to “enter with Him”.
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the Bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the Bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. 11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ 12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Mt 25:1-13)
I am not intending at all to comment or interpret this parable, this is not my aim. To me, on top of its proper intended meaning ("keep watch"), this parable sheds an intense light on the very moment of the Resurrection of the Lord, seen as a “coming back”, “from far” (from death, and hell), “victorious of death” and on the necessity to wait for Him, and be ready when He comes.
I see the Resurrection as a "meeting moment", and an "entering in the Kingdom". Let us just appreciate the intense Light it sheds on the Resurrection. Please don't hesitate to re-read this Parable thinking of these hours after Jesus' Death, and if there is anybody "waiting" for Him, when He rises.
This is why I ask insistingly: "is anybody there to greet Him, to meet Him, to “enter with Him” in the Eternal Joy of the Resurrection? Is anybody there, ready, waiting for Him until He Rises?"
I see the fact of meeting the Lord at His Resurrection as a vital fact for the future of Christianity. It is the vital and necessary bridge that reunites what happened before His Death, and what unfolded after His Resurrection. Otherwise, there is a gap, an abyss, a missing link between these two blocks. We take His Resurrection for granted. We think: "oh well, He had to rise anyway". But in fact, it is not true. If there is no flowing communication between the realities of the Kingdom before the Resurrection and what can happen after His Resurrection, we are facing a disconnection, a very dangerous hiatus.
Therefore, I do consider the presence of somebody who waits for Him, desires his Resurrection, wants it, pray for it, the presence of somebody to greet Him at His Resurrection and “enter with Him to the Wedding Banquet” as crucial as the lesson told by the parable, if not more.
In oder to “be part of” the eternal “Wedding Banquet”, the Kingdom of God, it is important to “be there”, in order to greet the Bridegroom.
The two Annunciations
In order to answer to this question we will go back to the beginning of saint Luke's Gospel.
The structure of saint Luke's Gospel opening chapter is fundamental. Saint Luke offers us two annunciations made by the same very High Messenger of God: the ArchAngel Gabriel.
First, to Zachariah, priest, who represents the people of Israel, praying and waiting for the Messiah,
|Annunciation to Zachariah|
Second, to Mary, young girl, who prays as well, and awaits for the coming of the Messiah, God announces the "good news", by sending His Angel, carrying the Sacred Message.
Who is ready to receive the Messiah? Both are praying, Zachariah (the whole people of Israel) and Mary. Who can believe? Who can open his heart and his whole being to the coming of God-amongst-us?
Saint Luke here is not giving us just an account, or telling a story. He is giving us a crucial element for our future: how can be we believe?
The two annunciations are put in parallel, in order to help us contemplate the difference between Zachariah and Mary. At the core we have the “capacity to believe”. Not only that, but Zachariah's failed annunciation is redeemed by Mary's double act: she believes “for herself”, and “for Zachariah” who didn't believe. In the sense that she had to believe as well that her cousin, Elisabeth, is as well pregnant by the action of God who healed her infertility, at a very old age.
This diptych (twofold parallel story) is fundamental to help us understand that Mary is really the first fruit of the Redemption. She is “full of grace” by a grace of God, a grace totally coming from “Her Saviour” (as she states it in Luke 1:47), from His Salvation realised on the Cross. It is true that the Salvation on the Cross happens, in the stream of time, after Mary's birth, but the Cross transcends time, covers all the times. Foreseeing the Salvation of the Cross, God extracts Mary from Jesus' side, as the "New Eve". Dante rightly calls Mary: “daughter of your son”.
Without Mary's faith, we wouldn't have had Jesus, this is true. But without Mary's faith, Elisabeth and Zachariah wouldn't be able to believe in Jesus. Both Mary's fruits are important.
Are you with me here?
It is not enough to have "the Redeemer", "the Divine Seed", "the Heavenly Wine", we need as well "the capacity to receive Him". This is why Mary is called the “one who believed” (Luke 1:45), the “Good earth” (Mt 13), the “New Skin” for the new wine. She is as well called “Jacob's ladder” (see John 1:51), because in Cana she is the one who can believe in Jesus, and she is the one who leads us, in her faith, to Him. We do “climb” on that Divine Ladder, given by God to us, in order to believe in Jesus, and reach his Side, and say again with Thomas: “My Lord and My God” (John 20).
In our Baptism, God gives us two things then: the "object" of our Faith: Jesus, who is everything for us, our “All”; and the “subject” of our Faith, Mary's capacity to “believe” and follow Jesus.
Mary continues to believe throughout her life, and reaches the point, at 3 pm, Good Friday, where again and again, she is alone, and having to believe in the Core of Jesus Message: “I will die and will rise, the third day” (see previous post). She is the one who carries the “Fire” of that Promise, protects it, against the stormy attacks of death, hell, and so forth... and keeps it intact, waiting, praying, fighting, aspiring, desiring to meet the Risen Lord, when He comes back from the land of death.
And what happens at the early hours of Sunday? “At the Third Day, there was a Wedding” (John 2:1). Do you see what I see?
Do you see the wedding? Who is the Bridegroom, the Bride?
I'll leave you with these thoughts now. Just go back to John 2:1-11 and try to see it under the light of what was unveiled above.
"On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”4 “Woman, what is between you and me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine.He did not realise where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him." (John 2:1-11)
(To be continued ...)