32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time A – Fr. Rick Sherman
November 8, 2020
Wis. 16:12-16; 1 Thes. 14-18; Mt. 25:1-13
Thank you for your very generous donations last weekend to the Annual Navajo Holiday Assistance Drive. We collected $727, plus 273 from our Charity Account for total $1000.
As we approach the end of Ordinary Time the Scriptures are reminding us of the end time of the world when Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead. Yes, we still believe in Judgement Day and as the Gospel of Matthew reminds us, there IS cut. There is a separation between the wise and the foolish and the separation is very bleak for the foolish.
Notice that in this parable the separation and the distinction is not between the exceptionally good and the awfully bad. The distinction is between the wise and the foolish. Those who are prepared for the bridegroom, who is coming for sure, and those who are not prepared. The bridegroom, in fact, says that he does not even ‘know’ the foolish and the unprepared.
The image of bridegroom conjures up one called to a reciprocal, covenant relationship where both parties are held to the same level of faithfulness. Are we prepared for this type of relationship with Jesus? Do we even want such a thing? Do we want to give Jesus that much time and attention? What if we are already married? Does our spouse want to give that much time and attention to another spousal relationship with God? Did such a thing ever even occur to us?
Another aspect of the parable is the presence of ‘virgins’ who are waiting for the bridegroom with their lanterns. Virgins are those who have abstained from conjugal love prior to marriage. So, since there were wise virgins and foolish virgins it would seem that being a virgin was simply not enough. Meaning, to abstain from some or all sins is apparently not enough to prepare us for the Lord. We must be ready with lamps filled with oil. There are positive, proactive actions and efforts that are necessary. As with a regular marriage, to be actually ready for a spousal relationship one must be prepared to converse on a mature level with one’s beloved. One must be ready to grow emotionally and spiritually with someone who is somewhat equally prepared and willing. Anyone who has attempted the sacrament of matrimony knows this. It would indeed be foolish to think that one could have a successful, faithful marriage without giving attention to the beloved’s mind, body and soul. And of course, this attention must occur daily on some level or the relationship does not grow as it should. The same is true of our relationship with Jesus. It’s interesting that in the parable when the bridegroom makes the cut, he does NOT say, “Get away; you’re too sinful and evil.” Rather He says, “I don’t know you”. (Common comments in Marriage Encounter; Retrovaille).
For the heterosexual males among us, perhaps the bridegroom imagery does not do much for us when we consider a relationship with God.
Listen again to the words from our first reading from the Book of Wisdom. Notice that Wisdom is described using the feminine pronouns, She and Her:
“Resplendent and unfading is wisdom,
and she is readily perceived by those who love her,
and found by those who seek her. (requires proactive effort)
She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire; (We must actually DESIRE wisdom and THEN she makes herself known).
Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed,
for he shall find her sitting by his gate.
For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence,
and whoever for her sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care; because she makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy (READY) of her, and graciously appears to them in the ways, and meets them with all solicitude.”
Again, it says, “whoever for her sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care” That would probably mean, ‘be free from anxiety”. Wouldn’t that be nice in these days filled contentiousness and fear over any of a number of issues facing us? Pandemic, divisive politics, economic uncertainty, etc., etc.
Being a wise virgin will pay off not just at the Last Judgement or the point of death for any of us, but true Wisdom will pay off everyday of our lives. “Wisdom is the perfection of prudence”. As you recall, ‘prudence’ is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, which we can bear if we cultivate the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, one of which is, wouldn’t you know it, ‘Wisdom.’ Receiving Wisdom is actually like receiving the love of a spouse. We must be prepared to receive it and then be ready to return it and act on it.
A good way to cultivate wisdom, among many, is to read the autobiographies, prayers, and poetry of the saints. Many of them also use very poignant spousal imagery. Saints Augustine, Theresa of Avila and John of the Cross come to mind. That could be your homework for the week.
Since this is such a short little homily, let me add just one more thing. You may have noticed that we have just had an election in our country. After a couple lawsuits and who knows what other kinds of social unrest, Joseph Biden and Kamal Harris will take their places as President and Vice President of the Unites States. Throughout their campaign, they have suggested that we are in a battle for the ‘soul of America.’ God help us if we are trusting the care of our souls to anyone in our political system, regardless of their political affiliation. That is really not their job anyway. That’s up to us. Which is another real good reason to cultivate Wisdom along with all the other Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Then, in addition to the forementioned ‘prudence’, we just might bear some other fruits of the Holy Spirit including such things as peace, faith (in God), self-control, and kindness. That would be nice.