Sunday Sermon for November 12, 2017, the Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: Wis 6:12-16; 1 Thes 4:13-18; Mt 25:1-13
In the first reading we are instructed about Lady Wisdom and how she is found. We are told that she is readily found by those who love her and she does not disappoint those who those who watch for her. The thought of Wisdom is the perfection of prudence and whoever keeps vigil for her will be quickly free from care.
So, we have to seek wisdom, it is not just simply given. Certainly, the Holy Spirit’s gift of wisdom is given by God, by even this has to grow and develop. Wisdom, as we see in the reading, does not come study or a mere wishing we had it. No, it comes from persevering in earnest seeking. It is the fruit of experience. For us, it comes from the experience of Jesus Christ and our relationship with Him in and through prayer.
Our Lord teaches us in the Gospel reading today about the need for wisdom as He tells the parable of the ten virgins, five of whom were foolish and the other five who were wise. The wise virgins brought along extra oil for their lamps just in case the bridegroom was delayed. The foolish virgins, on the other hand, assumed the oil they had would be sufficient for their needs, but found their torches going out before the bridegroom arrived.
The point of this is that we should never assume we have enough of what is required to get into the Heavenly wedding banquet. Since we know neither the day nor the hour when our Lord will arrive for us, it is possible that we have an abundance of what we need. At the same time, it could be a very long time before we are called home and the fire of our love for Jesus could grow dim and cold.
In the Gospel reading, when the foolish virgins realized their lamps were lamps were going out, they had to leave their place near the entrance to the banquet to obtain more oil. The bridegroom arrived while they were gone and they were barred from the feast. The same will be true for those who allow their prayer life to dwindle and their love for the Bridegroom of their souls to grow thin.
What is most important here, or perhaps we should say, the real wisdom is to realize why we do what we do. Are we doing everything for ourselves or are we doing it for Jesus? If we are doing something for someone we love, there is nothing too great for our generosity. But if we are doing something for a selfish reason, then we tend toward a more minimalistic attitude.
In other words, if we are looking merely at what it will require to get to Heaven we run the risk of falling into the trap of “How much can I get away with and still go to Heaven?” If we are wise and do things out of love for Jesus, then we are not going to be concerned with how much or how little we have to do because we will want to give Him everything. In wanting the best for Him, we will not lack in generosity.
Putting this into the context of the Gospel today, the foolish virgins did not want to trouble themselves with anything more than the minimal requirements. Perhaps they were acting out of a sense of duty or even self-seeking, but it was not for the good of the bridegroom. The wise virgins, we could say, were concerned with serving the bridegroom and making things the best for him. They were willing to inconvenience themselves to make sure he would have the proper welcome when he arrived.
We see in the second reading today that our Lord is going to be looking out for us, so we really do not need to worry about ourselves. Our task is to serve Him out of love, just as He serves us out of love. St. Paul tells us that when our Lord returns, the dead in Christ will rise first, then He will take up those who are still alive.
It is true that the salvation of our own soul is the top priority for us, but there is no better way to assure this salvation than loving and serving the Lord. When we do this, we will not count the cost of things nor will we be stingy with what we give Him. This mirrors the disposition of our Lord toward us.
If we do everything out of love, we will be among the first to rise from the dead. If we do everything trying to be among the first, we may find ourselves left out. Don’t risk missing the banquet: be wise and love the Lord!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.