Be watchful Be ready

Read today's gospel scripture Matthew 25: 1-13

PLEASE NOTE: This homily contains direct and indirect references to the Gospel passage. Having it fresh in your mind will be helpful for understanding and reflection.

Listen to this homily

-- by The Rev'd Glenn Empey

A woman wonders if her lamp will burn throughout the night. She wonders if she can find oil to replenish it when it runs low. She wonders who will help her. She wonders what can help her.


A woman wonders if she can keep going on. She wonders how she will have the energy to make it through. And she wonders who and what can help her.



You don't know when the bridegroom will finally arrive. It was the custom, so I learned from Father Doug's commentary, for the groom to arrive at an unexpected hour.


You don't know when things will return to normal. This virus is fickle yet relentless.



The gospel today is told of a woman. Actually, it's told of ten women, ten bridesmaids. The story could also be told of a man and of any number of men. "Understand this," Jesus says earlier, "If the owner of the house had known what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into."


So, "Be watchful", Jesus says. Be ready.



It's difficult to keep watching. It's difficult to be always on the ready. It's difficult when you're feeling run down and your energy is depleted. It's even difficult to think ahead about replenishing your energy.


And so it is for five of the women. And so it was for the man who was guarding his house.



The question then, it seems to me, would be how to stay watchful and how to be ready. How to keep up the energy to do both - to be watching, to be ready. It has to do with perspective and attitude. It has to do with outlook and vision.



First the perspective. For a person of faith, all of this is about seeing and recognizing the kingdom of heaven. The whole world is the kingdom of heaven. It's a remarkable perspective on how to see things. The whole world is the kingdom of heaven.


Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is already here. He also tells us that the kingdom of heaven is partly here. And he says too that the kingdom of heaven is yet to come.


So look to where the kingdom of heaven is already here in our midst. The kingdom of heaven is manifest in love, forgiveness, and compassion. The kingdom of heaven is manifest in the love you receive, in the forgiveness bestowed on you, and in the compassion shown to you. The kingdom is present in how you are loved, how you are valued and how you are accepted without condition. That is the starting point.


Then, the kingdom of heaven is revealed in the love you venture. The kingdom of heaven is in the forgiveness you give. The kingdom of heaven becomes flesh in the compassion you practise. All of that you can put into action from seeing the kingdom in the depths of your heart. That's the second step.


Next look to where you catch glimpses of the kingdom. In the smile of a newborn as she clasps your little finger. In the wave from a person you let into traffic. In the relief a friend sighs when he knows you've listened and heard him.



A glimpse of the kingdom can also come from what you feel in your heart... in bringing food to the hungry, in enabling affordable shelter for those overburdened, and in ensuring a well is dug for a village without water in Kenya. Those are glimpses of the kingdom taking new form and new shape. They're pieces of the picture, each of which marks a step forward. With each step the kingdom of heaven expands.



Next the attitude part. That is knowing the profound promise and having the energizing hope that one day - one great day - the kingdom of heaven will be fully here. There will be justice. There will be peace. There will be wholeness, healing and health. Having that vision aglow in your mind and in your heart is what moves our world, step by step, toward becoming fully the kingdom of heaven. That's the attitude that empowers a disciple.





Being watchful is to be seeking the kingdom of heaven. Being ready is knowing that you're loved, forgiven, accepted and valued and putting that experience into action through relationships with others.



It's actually quite simple.


When you are catching glimpses of the kingdom of heaven, you are being watchful. When you're bringing glimpses of the kingdom of heaven to others, you are ready.



The lamp stays aglow.


The house stays protected.


The kingdom of heaven grows.

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