At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
Every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, "he sat down at the right hand of God," and since then has been waiting "until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet." For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying, "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds," he also adds, "I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more." Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
Jesus said to his disciples, "But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
"From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."
Metaphors like "burning your boats" or "burning your bridges," suggest a radical option with no turning back. Having your lamp alight is a gentler image, but still a good one, for meeting the challenge of life. "What shall be the outcome?" is the question posed in both Old and New Testament. Where is this world headed? And more personally, what of my own destiny in the life to come? About that day or hour no one knows. And just as well, for it would be difficult knowledge to cope with. But his message is to be ready to meet him, whenever he comes. The Lord comes to us in many ways, both to gift us and challenge us. Welcoming him is what really makes us Christians, sharing the spirit of his first followers who said "Maranatha" — "Our Lord, come !" We are invited to live our lives within an awareness of eternity, seeing this life as preparation for and building towards an endless life with God.
The faster our cars become, it seems, the more we have to spend time waiting for the lights to change to green. The queue and the traffic-jam are signs of our times. The more we are in a hurry the more we feel held up. We travel at speed through the air, but wait interminably at airports. Business life is punctuated with frustrating times waiting for appointments. How do we wait? Sometimes with great impatience, sometimes with anxiety. But our waiting can also be coloured with joyful expectation. Expectation is often more pleasurable than realization. As Shakespeare said, "All things that are, are with more pleasure chased than enjoyed."
How should a believer await the coming of the Lord? Thoughtfully and carefully: We will have to give an account of all our actions - and of what we have failed to do. The books must be in order. Actively, with our lamps burning, not asleep. We have to keep on until the end. Joyfully, for if we are ready, then it is a joy to await the bridegroom and enter into the marriage feast. Hopefully, for we await him who in his one sacrifice lives to make intercession for our sins. In him we have confidence. He comes to reward us who have remained faithful and whose names are written in the book of life.
Our vision of the last things should not sink us in pessimism, or despair at our sinfulness. But the question should be asked: How ready are we? Our faith tells us that some generation in history will experience the second coming of Christ. Then a person may have but a moment to wonder: "Am I ready? Am I prepared? Even if ours is not the generation to see the second coming, still each of us must face our personal day, death. For some it comes unexpectedly, out of the blue, even perhaps at a young age. For others it will be fairly predictable and follow the more natural course of ageing and decline. Regardless, there will be a time when each must ask the question: "Am I ready? Am I prepared? Meanwhile, we are faced with multiple choices to make each day which may seem insignificant; but they all add up pointing us in particular directions, sometimes good, sometimes less so. Are our everyday decisions helping to make us ready? Are they making us prepared?
With the busy-ness of life it is easy to forget about the second coming of Christ. We prefer to ignore our mortality and put off our preparation for the death which we all must face. How do we prepare ourselves? How do we get ready? How will we be sure that the Lord recognizes us? What are the right choices to make during our day? The end of chapter 25 reads: "Then the king will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. Although we do not know the day or the hour of the second coming of Christ, Although we do not know the day or the hour of our own deaths, we have been told what staying awake entails. It seems that if we meet the response from the Lord: "Amen, I say to you, I do not know you, it will be because of our foolishness and not because of a lack of mercy or justice on the part of the Lord.