Thirty-second Sunday in
A Homily - Cycle A - 2010-2011
by Fr. Luke Dundon
First Reading - Wisdom 6:12-16
Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 63:2, 3-4,5-6, 7-8
Second Reading - 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Gospel - Matthew 25:1-13
Matthew wrote to show that Christ
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
Jesus told his disciples this parable: "The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise ones replied, 'No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.' While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, 'Lord, Lord, open the door for us!'; But he said in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.' Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour."
The City of Rome, May 11, 2011. Absolutely nothing happened. Literally! Something was supposed to happen…according to the prediction made for that day. A unique Italian geologist, known for his knack of predicting seismic events, had predicted 40 years earlier, that May 11th, 2011 would be the day of a tremendous earthquake to hit Rome and destroy the city. The exact time? Not known, but calamity was sure to strike. So, what happened? Most shops in Rome were closed – couldn’t get my espresso that day – and most seminarians “coincidentally” decided to go for walks, outside the building. Did the earthquake come? Of course not…but it made everyone think – what if this is the last day for the “Eternal City”? Not so eternal anymore…we know neither the day nor the hour…but what if we did?
A story is told of four monks who is in recreation time in the monastery. Recreation time in monastery which did not involve video games or arcades or football, but rather light conversation and chess. Suddenly one of the four asks, “Brothers, what would you do if you knew that the world was ending in one hour?” Well, there’s food for thought! Last trip to the amusement park, fine dinner in a restaurant, sky-diving? Naw, they’re monks…so one answered, “well, I would pick up my rosary beads and pray to the Blessed Mother.” Another answered, “I would go to pray before the Blessed Sacrament in Chapel for the final Holy Hour.” The third says, “I would go to Confession” (wise man!). But then they ask the questioner, “Brother, what would you do?” He looked up from his chess board and answered, “I would make the next chess move.” The next chess move – what? If you did know the day and hour, you’d make the next chess move!
Some preparation for the life to come! Every November, this time of year, as the Church year draws to a close, we begin hearing mention of “last things,” “preparedness in the face of uncertainty”…and, “you know neither the day nor the hour!” And so you must be prepared. Just like the virgins with the lighted lamps. They were ready, they had filled their lamps with oil, they were waiting with readiness and excitement – just as our stained glass window shows! Now, obviously, not everyone was able to stay up and wait, because some were foolish, some came out without any oil, and so they fell asleep, the lamps couldn’t keep them awake without the oil. Give us some of your oil! We can’t…then they’re won’t be enough for anyone to stay up all night!
Is this a study of “survival of the fittest?” Not quite…Our Lord, the master of the parable, gives these stories with meaning and serious intent. Important messages are delivered directly, and really important messages come through parables. Everything has important symbolism here – the bridegroom? I think we know who that is, he is one there on the cross. He will come, not just for an earthly wedding, but for the Heavenly wedding banquet. The virgins are basically bridesmaids for a Jewish wedding, awaiting the triumphal entry into the home of the new husband and wife; they could also be the saints who have gone before us, setting a good example. They have come prepared with oil, and the lamps remain lit – notice the color of their flames in the stained-glass window. It matches the radiant colors of their master’s glorious arrival. There’s a reason for that! The light that they radiate from their lamps flows from the light and goodness that he has shared with them. Similarly, the love and good deeds that we show forth in our lives will radiate the same divine color, even in the smallest things, such as a smile, a kind greeting, holding the door for somebody – such is the power of Confirmation, when the Holy Spirit comes to us, and empowers everything we do, giving Divine Light and love to all our good deeds! But we mustn’t be lazy, we mustn’t neglect the opportunity to love, because it will keep us spiritually awake and alive. Those without oil, those who freely avoid deeds of love, will lose the light, and slumber in sin. What allows Pope Benedict XVI to go on four hours of sleep? What animated Mother Theresa with such vitality? The light of God’s love, shining forth in their own lives, every single day!
Preparedness is a good thing…but, not a matter of waiting till the last minute…Someone once told me in high school, if the gates to heaven are guarded by a multiple choice final exam, then it’s not looking good…thank Heavens that it doesn’t work this way, and today’s parable reminds us of this…the final exam is not final at all, it’s occurring all the time!!! We have a lifetime to show the Lord our decision to either stand for Him or turn away from Him, primarily from our decisions to Love, which best imitates God. It’s not a forced choice – we can choose not to love, we can choose to sleep, but we’ll miss more than just a wedding party if we do!
Does it take work to keep the lamp lit? You betcha…we all know that…every so often it starts to dim a bit, but the Lord helps us keep the oil stock fully supplied. Do we need patience during this vigil? Oh yes, He doesn’t come right away, and so we must be diligent and persevere. Does it take a little extra effort to stay up all night in waiting? For sure, especially for a morning person like myself…however, it is worth it…look again at the window picture. One of the faithful virgins, she’s turned around and looks ready to shout out, “he’s here!” Your husband is here! She’s looking to the bride!!! But, where is the bride? Who is the bride of Christ? There’s someone missing in this story – the Bride… the Church…you and me…stay awake and persevere in love, grow in your desire for Him…for it’s not a matter of if, but when, for our Lord will come, darkness will fade, and we will not simple see Jesus in the form of a statue or stained-glass…we will see Him face-to-face. We persevere in living the Faith, we patiently remain steadfast in love, in everything we do, because we are betrothed to love himself, and so we can make the next chess move in peace, as we await, not a final exam, but a banquet of love…of which we shall have a taste from the altar in a few moments…