32nd Sunday in O.T.; November 12, 2017
Wis 2:12-16 Ps 63 1 Thes 4:13-18 Mt 25:1-13
Deacon Jim McFadden; SJB C.C.
We are a hyper-stimulated, impatient people. Carrie Fisher, in her auto-biography once opined that “Instant gratification isn’t fast enough!” And, the electronic, digital age we now live in has only exacerbated this. We have fast food, instant replay, 24/7 news bites. We become anxious when we have to stand in line at a checkout counter. We grip the steering wheel in a white-knuckled strangle-hold when we have to wait for a stop light. We complain when the homilist goes beyond 10 minutes.
As we approach the end of the liturgical calendar, we are reminded that the unfolding of time is not in our hands, but is in God’s. We know how the story ends—Jesus has conquered sin, death, and the power of Satan through his death and resurrection. We know that we have a secure and eternally life-giving future, when we stay connected to Jesus and proclaim that he is the Risen Lord. Despite what may be happening around us—the chaos, divisiveness, degradation of human beings—Jesus has promised us a blessing: namely, “Peace be with you” as he breathes upon us. God promises us peace—not merely the absence of war or conflict, but the life that is shared within the mystery of the triune God. That kind of communion and fellowship gives us everything we need to be happy and joyful, regardless of what our external circumstances may be.
When we gaze upon human history through the prism of Sacred Scripture, we see that human sinfulness can get in the way of God’s plans. So, the people waited anxiously for the time of fulfillment, which became known as the endtime. The Greeks have a word for this unique time: namely, kairos or God’s time. It stands by itself; it’s totally unique that is so different from the ongoing, ordinary time or chronos (chronological time). Amazing, transformative events occur in kairos. There, God’s promises are fulfilled.
As Christians, we believe that our Lord Jesus has inaugurated this time of fulfillment through the Mystery of Faith, the Paschal Mystery. At the same time, we have one foot planted in the world of ordinary time, in chronos. By virtue of our Baptism, we’re called to be missionary disciples as we live the extraordinary Way of Jesus in this ordinary time. As we do so, we enter into the time of fulfillment.
Today’s Gospel reading employs the metaphor of marriage to convey this awesome time of fulfillment. The virgins are part of a wedding party that is bursting at the seams. The point of the parable is to be always prepared “for you know neither the day or the hour” (Mt 25:13). All of the virgins were ready for the immediate arrival of the bridegroom, but only half of them came prepared for the long wait.
Brothers and sisters, we know that life is very precarious. We do not know when our time will come. But, like the wise virgins, we must always be prepared, having enough oil to get us through the night. We cannot presume that we’ll be able to purchase the oil when we need it. We cannot live as if the end is going to happen tomorrow—though it might. Yet, we must live as if the end is imminent. The question is, how are we to do this?
The mysterious figure of Woman Wisdom in the first reading offers us a guide for such thoughtful and intentional living. Echoing New Testament themes, we’re called to watch through the night, to be vigilant. We’re told that Wisdom will teach us how to live in this very complex and murky time.
This Wisdom is much more than practical knowledge as to how to get through the day with street smarts. She comes from God and is “perfection of prudence.” What does that mean? To seek wisdom is to seek God, in which we live his Way in our ordinary experience. That is, we take our Gospel values and apply them prudently in this concrete situation. While it seems that we are seeking her, we hear that “She makes her own rounds, seeking” us. That’s right, Wisdom seeks us. Our job is to be open to her invitation and to live accordingly.
The challenge put before us is very straightforward. We have been invited by God to the celebration of the fulfillment of His promise of peace. It’s right there. Do we want it or are we still clinging to the goods of the world as our source of happiness? This peace is what we will be enjoying in Heaven for eternity. We now live in the in-between time, a time of already-but-not-yet. Through grace, we already live in kairos inaugurated by Jesus, but it has not been completely fulfilled. So, we move through time, we must “stay awake,” be always prepared, for we do not know when it will be fulfilled. We are not alone in our waiting. We have, as our loyal companions, the Communion of Saints on earth, and the Wisdom that comes from God.
So, People of God at SJB, how prepared are you for the unfolding of God’s plan in your life? Where do you look for the Wisdom that comes from God?