Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Wisdom 6:12-16; Psalm 63:2-8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13

First Reading: In this selection from the Book of Wisdom, the author personifies divine wisdom as a feminine force who gives form to creation. The passage not only promises that wisdom can be found by those who seek her, but that she actually goes out in search of those who love her.

Psalm 63: Today’s Psalm continues the theme of seeking the presence of God. Here, the psalmist compares longing for God to thirst – the most fundamental of hungers of living creatures. Clearly, like the seeker of wisdom, the one who prays this psalm has sought and has been found by God.

Second Reading: At this point in his instruction to the Thessalonians, Paul addresses a matter that caused questioning and consternation in the community: “Why had some Christians died before the return of the Lord?”

Gospel: This is the second of the only two parables in which Matthew uses feminine imagery in speaking of the Kingdom of heaven. Unless we think that the parable promotes selfish behavior as the wise virgins refuse to be generous to the improvident, we need to understand its cultural context. The bridesmaids in this scene were to give the bride’s welcome to her groom. In that role they were to light his way in an exuberant reception.

Reflection: In today’s parable from Matthew, he addresses the delay until Christ comes again. The question for us, then, is how DO we deal with the delay? Matthew is suggesting an issue beyond vigilance – that we must also be prepared.

To note, this is the second of only two parables in which Matthew uses feminine imagery in speaking of the kingdom of heaven. (The other is the image of the woman leavening bread in 13:33.) Unless we think that the parable promotes selfish behavior as the wise virgins refuse to be generous to the negligent, we need to understand its cultural context. The bridesmaids in this scene were to give the bride’s welcome to her groom. In that role they were to light his way in an exuberant reception. Having no idea how long he would delay, their refusal to share their oil became a second illustration of their wisdom: five bright lamps would assure far more celebration than ten sputtering ones. Rather than being stingy, they were demonstrating their unwavering loyalty to the bride and groom.

Today’s parable, like the ones we have heard in the past few weeks, remind us that the Christian commitment is not a part-time or halfhearted undertaking. We can’t comfortably fall asleep and await the Bridegroom’s return. We must actively seek our Bridegroom, and at the same time have the long-range vision that sees Christ seeking us.

If we are not ready at the second coming of Christ, we can’t count on anyone else to cover for us. We are provided now with all we need (e.g., wisdom, invitation to vigilance, warnings about preparedness) to be ready when Christ comes. The real challenge is not to think of this as only a future event that won’t happen in our own lifetime. When Christ will come is not the important issue. We don’t know when Christ will come again! And so Christian living requires that we act each day as if there were the day when our Bridegroom will come and invite us to the feast. We must be ready.

Question for reflection: Am I ready for the Bridegroom’s arrival?

Copyright © 2017, Scott W. Eakins. All Rights Reserved.

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