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Ordinary Time 32 (A)
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Readings for the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

 

1. Wisdom 6, 12-16

  • I must slow down to appreciate these words, which form a kind of 30-second spot in praise of Wisdom – that is, the divine Wisdom.
  • The announcement is not from a hired advertiser.  Instead, I imagine a spiritual person, a contemplative, who has given a lifetime to God and God’s cause.  It could be a monk of our own time, as the Dalai Lama, or Thomas Merton, Teresa de Jesús, an Orthodox monk such as Dostoevsky’s Zosima, even Socrates.
  • My praise of Wisdom will be insistent.  She does not hide from us.  She wants to be found, so she comes and settles down in the most common places, sitting by the gate.  Like a road sign she graciously appears to them in the ways.
  • Central point: In the Gospel for today, Jesus tells us to be ready and watchful for a  bridegroom who has not yet arrived.  Here we are asked to be perceptive of the wisdom that is always here among us, resplendent and unfading.
  • Message for our assembly: Are we ready to acknowledge and confess the Lord?  We are the ones who must desire and seek wisdom.  If we do, we shall not be disappointed.  We shall be free from care.
  • I will challenge myself: to read with pauses, allowing us to become aware of the abundant, resplendent Wisdom.  I will speak from the midst of prayer, as if I see the key to our lives as never before.

 

2. I Thessalonians 4, 13-18

  • The apostle speaks of the time to come – a wonder he had not seen nor himself invented.  We tell you this, on the word of the Lord.  We hear the faith of the church being handed on to us.  God, through Jesus, will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 
  • Do not be unaware of those who have fallen asleep.  Nor should we be confused by this ancient euphemism.  From my own finality of voice or hushed tone my listeners will know what I really mean.
  • And under no circumstances will I ridicule the passage.  What relevance I can find for our congregation!  For I hear images of a peaceful but decisive last day, when God’s peace truly arrives.  This is not a day of fearful judgment but a heavenly choreography.  Let me paint it imaginatively for the assembly.  If we can create awe-inspiring visual wonders for Olympic ceremonies or halftime shows in sports stadiums, what might God design at a universal level?  The Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God.  I would amplify my voice to fill such a cosmic stage.
  • There are no spectators at this overwhelming display.  We are all participants.  All of creation steps forward, takes a bow, and is lifted up.  The dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we will be caught up together with them in the clouds. 
  • All of this takes place in God’s own time, the eternal “always” of Wisdom.  No one dies alone and forgotten.  If we believe that Jesus died and rose then everything else follows.
  • Climax: Thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Underneath the colossal scope of scripture lies this intimate truth that only believers have the innocence to understand.
  • Message for our assembly: We must not grieve like the rest who have no hope, especially in these days when we remember our departed loved ones.  How assiduously have we built the church of God?  Do we “await in joyful hope the coming of Jesus?”  If so, then it will be easy for us to console one another with these words.
  • I will challenge myself: To echo with conviction the apostle’s declaration, reaching the eternal truth that underlies whatever choreography we choose to depict: We tell you this on the word of the Lord.

 

Gospel. Matthew 25, 1-13

  • We have come to the close of the church year, the time of our completion.  There is a clear finality to this parable.  In the first two readings God is present and waiting for us to find him.  Here, though, humanity is separated, the door was locked, and those outside the door are told I do not know you.
  • Let me keep in mind as I read that the judgment, the decisive turn of events, does not come from outside us.  The Lord does not sneak up on people by surprise.  We are not told to feel terror but to stay awake.  The bridegroom is coming, that everyone knows, but some of the bridal party were foolish and some were wise.  In other words, have we made our preparations?  In my city at this time of year we know something about advance preparations.
  • This week millions of persons around the world await the moment of some relief from nature’s fury.  It may be the arrival of food, water, electricity, restoration of some creature comfort we have lost.  The arrival of the bridegroom in the Gospel signifies a shift in our lives to a higher level, a time of unending celebration.  They went into the wedding feast.
  • The wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.  What are these lamps and the flasks of oil that mean so much in the story?  I hear: preparation, perseverance, reserve supply, just the things we need when the usual resources are taken away.  The bridegroom was long delayed – Matthew would have put an exclamation point on this if he only knew how long of a delay it would be!
  • Climax: The coming of the bridegroom and the final moment when the door was locked.
  • Message for our assembly: The coming is a time of joy.  All the apocalyptic texts point to a return to God, a re-statement for God.  But if we only have the name of Jesus on our lips (Lord!  Lord!), as when we sing a favorite hymn, we will not enter the great feast.  The evangelist counsels us repeatedly that the kingdom of heaven is about doing God’s will.
  • I will challenge myself: To read with a calm but insisting tone.  The Gospel for today is not a threat but an invitation from Jesus to stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.  We are on notice: it is under our control.  We will determine if we are ready or wanting when the Lord comes.

Word to Eucharist: What more apt simile for us as we process now to meet the Lord than that of watchful virgins expecting his return?  This is not about us and certainly not about our worthiness.

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