The setting for today’s gospel comes toward the end of the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 25:1-13). Jesus has entered Jerusalem triumphantly, to the excitement of the crowds and to cries of “Hosanna to the son of David!” After Jesus’ arrival, He engages in several confrontations with the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Herodians. All of them want to destroy Him. Jesus takes time to expose their hypocrisy and to tell parables on different topics. Today’s gospel comes from His final words that week, right before He is arrested, tried and executed.

The theme of His final teaching is different aspects of judgment. This first parable is a lesson on what to do to be prepared to meet Jesus when he comes again. It is given in bridal language: the setting is a wedding and the wedding party awaits the arrival of the groom. The parable focuses on the attitudes and actions of 10 virgins: five are wise; five are foolish. ­Jesus is the bridegroom whom all await.

The attendees all have lamps, and all alike fall asleep awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom. In this, everyone is the same. Yet, half of them are not allowed in because they failed to bring oil with which to trim their lamps, and so at the bridegroom’s appearance, they are gone. The difference between the two groups of virgins is in their level of preparedness. In other words, it is not enough just to show up. There are ways that we have to make ourselves ready to meet the Lord. Like the wise virgins, we must act so that, when the Lord arrives, when He calls us, we are ready. Being ready for those moments means that every day requires prayer, conversation with the Lord, and giving Him honor, praise and thanksgiving in the way we live our lives. In our relationships and in our actions, ­Jesus wants us to remember Him, and in this way, day by day, we will be made ready to be with Him forever in heaven.

The fact that we do not know when Jesus will return might make some people feel afraid, but the first reading is very encouraging in this regard (Wis 6:12-16). It teaches us about preparation and the prompt assistance God is ready to offer whenever we turn to Him in faith. The reading describes the search for wisdom and encourages all to seek after her (wisdom is personified as Lady Wisdom and is therefore referred to as “she” in the reading). Even better, this is not a one-way search — wisdom comes out to meet us, looking for us, too! Wisdom as a gift from the Holy Spirit brings order to our lives because it allows us to see things in relation to their highest cause and purpose. This in turn allows us to judge rightly what is most important and how to order all aspects of our life accordingly.

Today’s second reading is also an antidote to fear. It gives another perspective on the Christian belief of the Parousia; Jesus’ return in glory at the end of time. Saint Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, explains to them why they can continue in hope despite the death of family and friends. Our loved ones who have died are not lost to us. On the contrary, at the second coming of the Lord Jesus, which Paul describes vividly as happening “with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God,” we will all meet the Lord.

The Blessed Virgin Mary has many titles, one of which is “Seat of Wisdom.” She can have a transformative role in our lives if we invite her in and give her permission to order both our interior and our exterior, our hearts and our surroundings. She will make us ready to meet Jesus, our King and Bridegroom.