The open door

Published on 05 Nov 2020

We shall stay with the Lord forever [1].

All through our life of discipleship doors open for us [2].  We go willingly in to where Christ is. His door is open all the time. The light of the world, shining, for us, the lamp of his truth, Jesus opens us to faith, draws us into hope and makes space for us to love charitably.  We go confidently where our saviour opens the way. He ushers us through to where we most desire to be.  His welcome as we begin each new phase of our service of his mission inspires our complete trust.  We earnestly hope that at the end of our earthly days, Jesus, will open for us a way into divine life with him, with the Father and with the Holy Spirit.  For Jesus’ friends, the transition to eternal life with God is one from whose terrors he has freed us. The gateway into eternity, death, is undeniably awe-inspiring. However at that entrance stands our brother, the risen Christ.   We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus: God will bring them with him [3].  Liberating us from the kind of fear which hampers virtue, our saviour teaches us to be ready for death and for every summons to return to God. 

Stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour [4]. The Lord speaks to us of our last day with the same solicitude as that with which he points, ever day, to the good that we can do.  By his grace, we are already trying to live as he shows us how to do.   We hope that at the end, we will be guided into the divine presence by the One who died for our sins. His cross is the key to the door through which we need to pass.  This need is no ephemeral whim.  It is a burning necessity.  I am thirsty [5], Jesus said, on Calvary. Meanwhile, we thirst for him and for his goodness. O God, you are my God, for you I long: for you my soul is thirsting. My body pines for you, like a dry, weary land without water [6].  To be led by the risen Christ into eternal life is what we most want. That the moment is of God’s choosing, not ours, is a reason for rejoicing.  He knows what is best for us, though his decisions may surprise us. With his help, we are all the time preparing for the greatest of all our encounters. Go out and meet him [7].

The Lord opens for us, who know our pressing need, the way into his kingdom.  Does he also, at a certain moment, bar that door?  Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding-hall and the door was closed [8].   Some still sought to enter but were too late and were excluded.  The door hospitably open, at one moment, can, it seems, at another, be firmly shut.  The other bridesmaids arrived later. “Lord, Lord,” they said “open the door for us.” But he relied, “I tell you solemnly, I do not know you.” [9]  Could a closed door be what awaits us?  Could I do not know you be addressed to us?   Our encounters with Christ always rule out some other courses of action. Death closes off this present existence.  There is no returning.  Life is a road, which once travelled, cannot be retraced. Last-minute improvements can be made. However it is rash to leave until late the labour of conversion and amendment. You do not know either the day or the hour [10].  The bridesmaids, who had gone off to buy [11] what was necessary, might, if they had been a little luckier, have returned in time.  Their foolishness was in not having thought early enough about what was required.  They were too late.  We shrink from the idea that anyone could be too late for mercy. God is aware of our excellent intentions.  Could he so far forget them as to say to us I do not know you?

God knows us, our good intentions and the day and hour of our death. He wants us to turn to him, to allow our life to be amended and to be ready for judgement. Mercifully, he gives us grace and time for all of this.  Nor will he keep us forever in suspense.  He who opens the door of eternity to us to welcome us also closes it behind us. The One who saves us draws a line under all that has happened to us earlier. He shuts the door on rancour and regret.  His firm I do not know you is addressed to the foolishness of supposing that we can retrieve the irretrievable.   The foolish bridesmaids stand for that in us which is inclined to delay our full conversion to Christ. Irrationally we want the door of death to open for us more than once. Between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours [12].  Of our meeting with the Lord there is no postponement.

Until the door is closed, we do our best to allow ourselves to be prepared for the great encounter.  Those who were ready went with him into the wedding-hall [13].  We pray. We love our neighbour as ourselves. We are in daily communion with the One with whom we hope to spend eternity. We persistently seek knowledge of God so that we could no more say to him ‘I do not know you’ than he, our loving creator, would say to us I do not know you.  One day we will have done enough.   God will decree that there is no more for us to do.  What if we are still not ready? We want you to be quite certain about those how have died, to make sure that you do not grieve about them, like other people who have no hope [14].  At the end of our life the door will be closed on all that we personally can do to allow ourselves to be prepared for heaven.  That preparation is always God’s work.  Our discipleship of Jesus is a life to which we are called by him. We live that life inspired by the Holy Spirit. All is grace.  We are being helped all the time.  However, at a certain moment our part in the work will be done. They all grew drowsy and fell asleep [15].   The coming of Christ will awake us. With the door shut, we will not be able to do anything except hand ourselves over completely to God and his holy will.  What we always wanted in this life will then be inescapable.  We will be in the providence of God, and content to be so.  Our lamp, which in this present existence can falter or even go out, will then be inextinguishable.

The lamp is wisdom. Wisdom is bright and does not grow dim.  By those who love her she is readily seen, and found by those who look for her.  Quick to anticipate those who desire her, she makes herself known to them.  We light our steps as disciples by the lamp of divine wisdom.  When we go to meet the Lord, and when he kindly shuts the door behind us, we will be in a place of great light.  There will no longer be any need to worry about replenishing our lamp.  We will be caught up in the wisdom of God.  And if we are not quite ready?   Those who await the completion of the divine work are the holy souls. There is holiness is in their patience.  They are waiting on God.  They submit to purification.   So I gaze on you in the sanctuary, to see your strength and your glory. For your love is better than life [16].   They have not lost their burning thirst for the divine presence.  Our prayer is that their longing to be with God will be satisfied.  One day it will be clear that, for them also, the door has been shut not in their face, but behind them.  The wisdom and light that they seek will be theirs in abundance.  What once was foolishness will be transformed into a wise acceptance of that bright, embracing welcome which Our Lord Jesus Christ is steadily extending to us all.

Homily by Fr Peter Gallagher SJ

[1]              1 Thessalonians 4.17

[2]              Matthew 7.7-8

[3]              1 Thessalonians 4.14

[4]              Matthew 25.13

[5]              John 19.28

[6]              Psalm (63) 62.1

[7]              Matthew 25.6

[8]              Matthew 25.10

[9]              Matthew 25.11-12

[10]            Matthew 25.13

[11]            Matthew 25.10

[12]            Luke16.26

[13]            Matthew 25.10

[14]            1Thessalonians 4.13

[15]            Matthew 25.5

[16]            Psalm (63) 62.2-3