Sunday Sermon for November 6, 2011, the Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: Wis 6:12-16; 1 Th 4:13-18; Mt 25:1-13
As we draw near to the end of the Church year, the readings always begin pointing to the end of the world. It is interesting that in that context the Church gives to us a reading about wisdom. This is something that would not normally be equated with the end of the world. However, it does not take much thought to understand the necessity of wisdom when the end comes, but also in every age leading up to the end.
Just think about all of the things we have been hearing about over the past months. We have been hearing about the Mayan calendar ending next year, we have been told about a comet that would cause major damage to the earth, we have even had a whole campaign telling us that the rapture would be on May 21 and the end of the world would be on October 21. These are just a few examples of the bizarre events and ideas being floated in our day.
Add to all of this the Catholics who claim to be receiving messages of one variety or another and you begin to see where wisdom is essential to sift through these in order to determine what is real and what is not. It is easy to say that it is all ridiculous and reject it all. However, if this we place ourselves with this attitude into different times of history, we would say that Abraham was a nut, we would be among those who rebelled against God and Moses, we would have rejected the Prophets and, most importantly, we would have rejected Jesus. If we look forward, St. Paul tells us in the second reading that at the Second Coming we will be caught up in the clouds with those who have died and meet the Lord in the air. This, too, would be rejected by those who will not believe.
The fact is, that at the end of the world, things are going to be extremely chaotic. Thankfully, we will not have to worry about that. However, the times we live in are pretty chaotic themselves and, just as it will require wisdom to discern the truth at the end, so it is necessary for us today. Even if none of the supposed visionaries of our day are correct, it still requires a fair amount of wisdom to deal with the chaos of today.
In the Gospel our Lord points to another aspect of wisdom. Here the wise virgins brought enough oil to last in case the bridegroom was delayed. The wisdom is not just to discern, but to be prepared for the things to come. Once again, we could fill our basements with supplies, but that is not what is needed. Instead, we need to make sure that we are spiritually prepared, trusting in God, and committed to remaining faithful to the end. The only way we can be reasonably sure of this is to be faithful to prayer daily and remain faithful when times are difficult and when prayer is dark and dry.
Wisdom helps us to recognize what is most important as opposed to what we want. This has become a problem in our day because there is so much available for anyone to have what they want when they want it. Our wants and desires are sometimes mistaken for necessities. I suppose that the first point of wisdom, then, is to know that we are not God, we are not in control and we are often badly mistaken when it comes to our priorities.
If we are willing to look beyond ourselves and look to God, then we can begin to see the foolishness of our selfish ways. The remedy for this is found in the first reading where we are told that Wisdom makes herself known in anticipation of our desires and, if we are found worthy of her, she will appear to us in the events of our lives and meet us with all solicitude. This does not imply that we will begin having vision or hearing voices, but our minds and hearts will be enlightened to know the truth and to love what is best.
In the midst of the chaos we live in people are looking for anything that they think they can provide them with stability. The first reading says that with wisdom we will quickly be free of care. There is our stability! There is our peace! Jesus is the Wisdom of God. Will we be foolish and trust in ourselves or wise, trusting in Jesus? His wisdom gives us the grace to discern and the grace to prepare spiritually. The only question is: are we willing to look beyond ourselves with our wants and desires and earnestly seek the Wisdom of God?
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.