"Those who died in Christ will rise first. Then we the living, the survivors,will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air." 1 Thess. 4:17
I find it appropriate that this is one of the readings for today in our Catholic daily scripture plan. Tomorrow is September 1, and this September promises to be eventful. Some Christians believe that either Jesus is coming, or a comet, or economic collapse. Now how does anyone prepare for any of that? If you search #preppers on Instagram, you will see 10,000 posts which include tips on canning, and what weapons and tools people are collecting. If you search September 2015 on Youtube, you will find many Christians sincerely believing and trying to convince others of amazing things going to happen. So far the most amazing is the story that the Pope is going to the US to convince the world to look to aliens for salvation!!!
I believe in the rapture, what Saint Paul describes in 1 Thessalonians 4. Rapture comes from the Latin "rapio", which means to be caught up, to be seized or snatched up. One day, Jesus will come and seize His Bride, the Church! The whole Bible to me is like a romantic love story where God pursues His people. He wooed Adam and Eve, gave them everything, even free will. They chose to disobey. He has been wooing us through the ages, until He came to show us who He really was and what He would do for us if we gave Him our heart. And yes, one day, He will come back for us, His bride, His beloved. What an exciting day that will be!!! Like any bride to be, should we not be preparing ourselves, body, mind and spirit? Should we not keep ourselves pure for Him who died for us? Should we not spend every day reading His Words to us, savoring it, believing His promises? Yes, we should be waiting and watching, for one day we will meet Him who loved us first, face to face!
"Be doers of the Word and not hearers only." James 1:22
Chuck Swindoll has a great illustration about this important precept. What if I had to leave our business for a month to set up another office and I left someone in charge? Every day I would send instructions via email about what needs to be done, what to follow up on, employees to oversee, etc. At the end of the month, I come back and I see that the office is a mess, employees are not at their desks and the one I put in charge of everything, was nowhere to be found! When I ask questions, I find out that every day, they went through my instructions, underlined it, divided into groups and discussed it. BUT THE INSTRUCTIONS WERE NOT OBEYED!
Sometimes Christians can be very diligent about studying the Word. The words in their Bibles are underlined, encircled, colored in. If you look at my old Bible, almost all the words are highlighted. I have notes in the margins. In my new Bible I have paintings on many of the pages. But what matters to God?
Jesus said in John 14:15, "If you love me, keep my commandments." In Matthew 12:50, Jesus stretched out His hand toward his disciples and said, "Whoever does the will of My Father is My brother, My mother, My sister." If we want to be part of God's family, we need to be doers of the Word!
"Stay awake therefore! You can not know the day your Lord is coming!" Matthew 24:42
I am imagining myself as a servant in a household. When the master is on vacation, would I be relaxed and not very diligent with my duties? If I was an employee and my boss was out on a series of meetings, would I join in the noise in the office, the horse play and loud bantering? In Matthew 24, Jesus warns against not being prepared for the day He comes again. Like the master of the household or the boss, one does not know when Jesus will come!
With Jesus' coming, we need to always be spiritually prepared! We do not need to wait for His second coming with all the bells and whistles! And indeed if it is not the Lord's coming, death can easily come like a thief in the night!
And the foolish said to the prudent, "Give us some of your oil for our lamps are going out." Matthew 25:8
In the Parable of the Virgins, there are 5 foolish bridesmaids and 5 wise ones. They are all waiting to welcome the groom who is very likely arriving with the Bride after fetching her from her parents' home. The wedding party is very delayed and the bridesmaids get sleepy. Picture it- 10 beautifully dressed and made up ladies, waiting outside in anticipation of the wedding party. At first they are excited, talking to each other animatedly, but as time goes tic ticking by with no sign of the Bride and Groom, they sit down and sink into sleepiness.
Alas! When the warning shout comes that the Groom is near, the foolish bridesmaids find out their lamps are sputtering! They ask the wise ones for some but they say there will not be enough for all! So the foolish ones leave to buy oil and we know what happens! After all that preparation and waiting, they are not let into the wedding feast! "I do not know you!" The Bridegroom says.
What is that all important oil that keeps our lamps burning? Is it the Holy Spirit? Is it the Word of God that is a lamp to our feet? Is it prayer? I think it is everything that keeps us close to God and in fellowship with Him. We should not allow the fire we have within us die- 'en theos', God within.
Because if it dies, if it is not tended, we cannot beg, borrow or steal this oil, as the Bridesmaids found out to their peril!
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