Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
8 November 2020
Readings: Wisdom 6:12-16; Psalm 63; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13 https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/110820.cfm
The parable Jesus tells in this gospel passage betrays a great urgency and vigilance, a sense of expectant waiting, an admonition to be prepared. He ends with the statement, “stay awake, for you do not know the day or the hour”.
When our lives will end, we certainly do not know.
What we do know, however, is that we have today, this moment.
How would our lives be different if we could stay focused on this moment, without an expectation of tomorrow? It may be a cure for procrastination!
More critically it may remind us that in God’s eyes loving is an urgent matter. For that is our purpose in life – to come to know God’s unconditional love and to love others as we have been loved.
To be like God’s love, ours must not be conditional.
It can’t be that we love when it’s convenient,
or love just whom we like, or love those who have already loved us,
or love those who can repay us.
Unconditional love means it’s got to be today, now and with no excuses.
Jesus’ parable is about the bridesmaids at a wedding – those who were wise and well-prepared for their role, and those who were foolish and unprepared. Their role was to escort the couple with much fanfare from the bride’s house – where the bridegroom would have just negotiated the wedding contract – to his house where the couple would celebrate the wedding feast.
Well, the negotiation was taking a long time! And these bridesmaids got sleepy. But some had prepared and others had not. When it was finally time to do their duty the foolish ones were found lacking oil for their lamps.
Thus they could NOT welcome the couple and escort them to the feast. Indeed, they could NOT provide light with their lamps and create the festive atmosphere.
Frequently this parable is interpreted to mean one must be pure of heart and without sin for they do not know the day or hour of our death. That is true, but the meaning runs even deeper than that: to call us to attend to our duty to love, here and now.
The difference between the wise and the foolish is that the wise were ready to fulfill their important duty of hospitality, to dignify and celebrate the honored guests – the newly married couple. We can relate to this even in the present day, for a wedding is a beautiful and important celebration, not only for the couple but their family and friends and community too.
There is a sacredness to hospitality. Over the dining hall entrance at Holy Cross, where I went to college, there is an inscription in Latin: Hospes venit, Christus venit [A guest comes, Christ comes].
Do we see Christ in every guest? Do we take seriously our duty to welcome people to the feast? Do we keep our lamps filled with oil, ready to light whenever the Lord shows up in the stranger, the homeless, the one returning to God and community after a time estranged, the person who is ill, the young person who is confirmed, the newly baptized baby?
Do we at St. Anselm hold fast to this kind of wisdom – that stays ready always to welcome Christ our neighbor? For by such wise readiness, we enter the Kingdom of God – that holy communion that spans heaven and earth, the saints among the living and the deceased.
This parable comes to us in the 25th chapter of Matthew’s gospel, which is surrounded by Jesus’ strong urging to social justice. It sends the message that “what you do for the least of my brothers and sisters you do for me” (Mt 25:40).
So our “day and hour” is not only the hour of our death. The Kingdom of God is, therefore, now / close at hand! We are invited to enter the Kingdom at every opportunity to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, console the sorrowful, restore the estranged, heal the sick, and so on.
At St. Anselm these are the sort of Christians we strive to be – like the wise bridesmaids, eager to fulfill their holy calling.
This wisdom takes work. Consider how in the parable the foolish bridesmaids could have noticed the wise ones and also prepared themselves with sufficient oil for their lamps. But they must not have been paying attention, or they became self-absorbed, or just distracted. Perhaps they simply thought they could rely on their friends to bring enough oil for them too. But then all would have run out, as the wise ones pointed out to them.
We need one another to enter into God’s Kingdom. We do not do it alone. But each has a role to play and preparations to make.
We are presently in a phase of rebuilding and renewal here at St. Anselm’s, and we need each precious one of you at the table — To look deep into your hearts to discern how to fill your lamps, so that, as and when Christ comes into our midst, we will together have a surplus of light and love to welcome him.
By sharing our time and talent and treasure we all can be prepared, do our part, welcome Christ, and enter the feast as one family. No contribution of any kind is insignificant. May we grow wise together!
In reflection upon our scriptures from this Sunday, I ask you in the week ahead, to do three things:
- Pray to your beloved dead to intercede for the St. Anselm family. Maybe you want to come to the memorial outside, add your loved ones to it, and pray before all those beautiful memories of our very own saints in heaven. May they help us by their prayers to rebuild.
- Consider your gifts and what you can share. Could God be calling you to do something new and different, leave your comfort zone, give to your community in a new way?
- Act in some way to “fill your lamp with oil”. Call or write to me or a member of parish council to talk about what gifts you could share. Make an offering for the support of the parish ministries (see our website). Or participate in something new – like Monday’s midday walking group, Tuesday’s afternoon rosary, Wednesday’s morning mass, or Friday’s stations of the cross.
Pray – Consider – Act. This week, these three things! Thank you!
Our souls thirst for God (Psalms 63 & 42)! Christ comes to quench our thirst. So, urgently, with vigilance and expectation, with preparation and joy – let us fill our lamps to welcome Him!