The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Homily: 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Wis 6:12-16; Ps 63; 1 Thes 4:13-18; Mt 25:1-13

I know I’ve mentioned my eighth-grade teacher, Sister Francis Jane, more than a few times in the past. And as I prepared this homily she just popped up once again.

Every so often, maybe once a week, she’d read a Gospel passage to us in class and then talk about it for a few minutes. One morning, after reading today’s parable of the ten virgins, she said to the girls in our class, “It would seem by the way you girls behave that you’re much more like the five foolish ones than the five wise ones.”

Well, as you can imagine, we boys thought that was great, the girls being put down, and so we all burst into laughter. And that’s when sister turned on us and said, “Well, at least the girls were invited. Notice there’s no mention of boys being at that feast.” Yes, this good Dominican sister had a way about her. Of course, she went on to tell us that, wise or foolish, we were all invited. It was our response, our readiness, she said, that makes all the difference.

But, you know, as I read this parable again I was struck by one particular verse: “Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.”

“Long delayed…” You see, today we’re in that time of delay, that time between Jesus’ first coming in weakness and humility, and His second coming in power and glory. And, yes, it’s been a long delay, 2,000 years of delay.

And then, “…they all became drowsy and fell asleep.” That’s right, all of them, both the wise and the foolish, fell asleep because it’s hard not to when the delay has been so long.

It’s evident, of course, that we live between the times, don’t we? We need only look at our world, at the wars and the crimes and the catastrophes, at the illness and aging and sorrow and grief and death. Yes, it’s evident Christ has not yet returned, for these sorrows will have no part of Christ’s eternal reign, when in fullness and triumph He will bring holiness and healing and true happiness to His Kingdom, a Kingdom which is not of this world.

And so, like the ten virgins who wait in anticipation, we too can become a little tired of the waiting and begin to doze off, wise and foolish alike. But God knows we need rest from our labors. He knows we can find the waiting a challenge, or that it too often takes a back seat to the more immediate concerns of everyday life. Even in our faith we can all doze off a little.

But what Jesus is telling us here is that as we wait, like the five wise virgins, we must remain ready in our waiting. You see, if our lives don’t reflect our faith, we’re simply not ready. We’ve run out of oil, the oil of faith, that which lights the way for the Bridegroom. It’s we who are called to bring His light to the world, and we can’t do that if our faith is so weak that we never even think about His coming.

We have to be “oily” Christians, lamps at the ready, waiting for our Lord’s arrival in our lives. And not just for His coming in power and glory, but for His quiet coming, His appearance to each one of us day after day in all those we meet. If we haven’t seen Jesus Christ in all those others, if we haven’t taken His bread to the hungry and His love to the lonely and despairing, then we’re not ready to meet Him and our lamps are dry indeed.

And let’s not forget, Jesus is also talking about His very personal arrival, that moment when He comes to each of us at the end of our lives. St. Paul, in our second reading, reminds us to “encourage one another” so that in the waiting we do not lose hope. “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring those who have died with Him…”

And so as we await His arrival, let’s give thanks that we have been invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb. What an honor and privilege for us! That invitation changes everything, doesn’t it? And it brings with it a sense of expectation manifested here as we celebrate the Eucharist; for the Eucharistic celebration is a clear anticipation of the heavenly banquet to come, when Christ comes in final victory.

Brothers and sisters, today we have all been invited to this Holy Meal in which Jesus is truly present just as He was in the upper room and at Calvary. And because we celebrate Jesus’ redemptive sacrifice and His Resurrection on Sunday, and today, its vigil, we are commanded to keep the day holy.

The reserving of this one day of the week as a time of holiness is all a part of the readiness expected of us as believing Christians who live our faith. It is the day of the Eucharistic presence of Jesus Christ.

Elizabeth greeting Mary, the Christ-Bearer (Luke 1)
What a blessing this Eucharistic presence is, this coming of Jesus into our lives! For in our reception of the Body and Blood of Christ we all become, like Mary, Christ bearers, carrying Jesus to all whom we encounter today. It’s no wonder we sing, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Keep the day holy, brothers and sisters, give this one day to God as a sign of your readiness.

And just remember, simply to accept His invitation isn’t enough. You and I must also be expectant, joyful, and ready to greet Him when He arrives in our lives, no matter how and when His coming.

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