Every November, as the year winds down to a close, the Church turns our attention to the Second Coming of Jesus. We begin by looking to heaven on All Saints Day and All Souls Day, and we end by celebrating Jesus’ Lordship on the feast of Christ the King. And in between, our Scripture readings at Mass cover Jesus’ last weeks in Jerusalem, when he shared numerous parables about the final judgment.
When we think of the Second Coming, we tend to focus on the terrifying signs that Jesus foretold: the chaos and lawlessness that will be unleashed or cosmic calamities like the sun disappearing and the moon turning to blood. We think, perhaps, of the suffering and persecution of believers that Jesus predicted, and we wonder if we will have the strength to endure so much upheaval.
But as frightening as these images may be, they are only part of the story. When he spoke of his return, Jesus was always clear that this violence was nothing more than the last gasp of sin and evil before their final destruction. In every instance, Jesus balanced his words of warning with words of hope and promise.
He told us that when signs of the end appear, “Stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand” (Luke 21:28). He told us that before the end was to come, “his angels . . . will gather his elect from the four winds” to keep them safe (Matthew 24:31). And he promised, “The one who perseveres to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:13). Over and over, he told us not to fear the end. We belong to him, and as long as we stay close to him, we will come through the turbulence and will be welcomed into heaven.
But Jesus didn’t just give us words of comfort. He told us how we could survive the end times and be admitted into his kingdom. This month, we’re going to look at three parables that do just that: the parable of the ten bridesmaids (Matthew 25:1-13), the parable of the talents (25:14-30), and the parable of the sheep and the goats (25:31-46). As we look at these parables, we’ll see three key ways we can prepare ourselves for Jesus’ return—strategies that not only will keep us safe, but that will also bring us closer to the Lord as we eagerly await his return.