Be patient when looking for signs from heaven
The spiritual life is slow, but key moments can happen suddenly and sometimes unexpectedly. Today’s readings reinforce the virtues of patience and prudence, especially when looking for signs from heaven. The Spirit moves on its own terms, and we must be ready when it arrives.
O God… whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water. (Ps 63:2)
Do you find yourself impatient with God’s responses?
Are you ready to hear the Spirit knocking at your door?
As you wait for Christ, how are you wise and how are you foolish?
The belief of many Christians that the end of the world will happen violently and quickly, a belief often called the “Rapture,” comes from this Sunday’s second reading. Belief in the rapture includes a belief that God-fearing people will be immediately taken up into heaven at the beginning of apocalyptic tribulations even as everyone else is “left behind.” People who believe in the rapture base their belief on Paul’s words, “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thes 4:17). Among Catholics, this same passage is one of the options for funerals and burials, because the symbolism highlights our belief in resurrection even as the body slowly decays in the ground.
The spiritual life is slow, but key moments can happen suddenly and sometimes unexpectedly.
This imagery might be vivid, but rather than inspire shock and fear, it emphasizes the virtue of readiness. The same applies to this Sunday’s Gospel. “Therefore,” says Jesus, “stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Mt 25:13). In his parable of the wise and foolish virgins, several themes interplay. These include the theme of staying alert, of being patient for the coming of the bridegroom, of the need to carry one’s light and of the consequences of imprudence. Jesus admonishes his disciples to be like the ten virgins “who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom” (Mt 25:1). A key moment in this Sunday’s Gospel is when all the women “became drowsy and fell asleep.” Neither the wise nor the foolish escaped the heaviness of their waiting and longing. This parable is not merely a reflection on patience, but an encouragement to stay ready to respond to the bridegroom’s summons.
In the spiritual life, no one can control when and how this summons will take place. In the pursuit of wisdom, for example, this Sunday’s first reading reminds one not to grasp after the divine wisdom that comes on its own terms. “Because,” reads the passage, “she makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her” (Wis 6:16). People can accomplish all sorts of goals through force and willpower,, but the Spirit as personified wisdom “makes her own rounds.” Thus, the task for those on a spiritual path is not just to wait for God’s prompting, but to be ready when it arrives.