Lift Up Your Hearts: The Last Things

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the beauty of the colors. Of course I have many fond memories of playing in the leaves.

At the farmhouse we had 6 or 7 very large trees that after dropping their leaves would be the source of leaf piles so large that an adult could get lost in them. I also love the fall because it is a time of harvest and bounty. I love apples, apple cider and pumpkins and, yes, pumpkin pie — YUM! It all just speaks to me of a time of plenty. One of my favorite holidays has always been Thanksgiving, mostly because of family, football and food. Of course many people look forward to hunting season as well. I have been known to do a little hunting myself. Still haven’t gotten the big buck, but I’m two for two as far as shots taken. There is always so much to look forward to in the fall, as well as a lot to prepare for. Now that we are in the month of November, everything begins to look cold and dead, and nature begins to hunker down for the long winter ahead. It’s a time where preparations have been made and food has been all stored up for the season.

Just as nature speaks of things coming to an end for the season, the Church begins to speak of Last Four Things. These are the four last things of life; Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. Obviously, three out of the four are not so exciting to think about. Yet, I think they are important realities to remind ourselves of in order that we live life prepared and ready for what is to come. You see, God wants us to be ready and to prepare for life with Him in eternity and says as much many times throughout scripture. Often, we focus very much on the here and the now, and live as if this life is all there is. We avoid thinking about the end. It just seems perhaps a little too morbid and certainly killjoy. I actually find it really helpful though because it makes me reflect on my choices. Without looking to the end of life, we can live life without prioritizing correctly. Meditating on the end, can help me to ask the right questions of myself so that I can keep myself in check. Am I living too much for myself, or have I been focused enough on others needs? Am I bringing life and joy to those around me, am I a witness to love and peace? Throughout the Gospels Jesus reminds us to remain awake and vigilant.

In the Gospel passage for this weekend, Jesus tells the a parable about ten virgins, five of whom were foolish and five of whom were wise. The story goes like this; “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” In this parable the virgins represent all of our souls. Those who were wise brought oil to keep their lamps going. I believe the light represents the life of faith, and the oil represents what we need to do to keep the faith alive in our hearts. What are the practices of faith that we need to maintain, or perhaps add to our routines in order to keep our lamps of faith burning for the time when the bridegroom will come? I believe that a consistent life of prayer and union with God is key, as well as constant acts of selfless love.


Being among the wise and the prepared then is more than just being a good person, because what I have found is that when people say they are basically a good person, it means that they haven’t hurt other people, they haven’t told any big lies, or cheated etc. We tend to focus on the bad things that we have not done, rather than on the good things we have done, or could have done. It tends to be a way of justifying our non-action, or lack of participation in building up society. The wise virgins brought something extra with them. It was the extra they brought that allowed them to be prepared. It wasn’t about the things that they avoided bringing because it would have been inappropriate to bring them. It was about the abundance of faith and love that flowed from their hearts.

I think this is why it is good for us to reflect on the last fourth things, because when we die, we want to be able to be confident that we have truly lived. We want to be ready to welcome Jesus when He comes with abundance of faith and love. Jesus is not going to judge us based on the bad things that we avoided, but rather based on our faith in Him, on our love for Him and for our neighbor, and on our cooperation with His saving grace. In order that we do not tire, or get drowsy in our spiritual life, Jesus reminds us that we do not know the day nor the hour when He will come, and so we need to stay awake. So let us remember the end, not for the purpose of becoming anxious, but rather for the purpose of keeping the flame of faith and love alive in our hearts.