32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Book of Wisdom supplies the first reading for this weekend. The title of the book itself teaches a lesson.
As centuries passed, foreign influences virtually overwhelmed the Holy Land. Times perennially were hard. Understandably, many Jews left their ancestral homeland in search of better lives. They emigrated, but went to places where paganism prevailed.
In these new places, devoted Jews found themselves required to explain and defend their ancient belief in the One God of Israel.
This book, among others, arose from this process. The title simply makes the point that acceptance of the God of Israel is the wise choice, a logical choice, not a leap into fantasy.
An interesting literary technique in this book is that wisdom is personified. Wisdom is described as if this human attribute were a person, moving through the world and being available to humans.
The First Epistle to the Thessalonians provides the second reading. The fact that this epistle was sent so long ago in itself testifies to the presence of a Christian community in Thessalonica, now the city of Saloniki in modern Greece. Already the Church had moved beyond its geographic origins and was becoming present in Europe, not only in Asia.
Paul makes several important theological points in this reading. The first is to express the Christian thought that life endures after earthly death. Such a concept was not Hebrew in origin, at least not in its purest origins. It was an idea in Greek philosophy, but the Christian contribution to this idea was that eternal life was intimately connected with the reality of an individual person’s acceptance of, or rejection of, God in a person’s earthly existence.
The second point draws the link between Christ and each Christian. No theme is more favored by Paul. It is fundamental. Christ lives forever. He overcame death. He rose. So, Christians who earnestly and truly accept the Lord share in this victory over death. They too are destined to live forever.
St. Matthew’s Gospel is the source of the third reading. It is the familiar parable of the bridegroom and the foolish and wise virgins. Some commentators raise an interesting suggestion. Maybe the virgins, wise or otherwise, actually are symbols of disciples. While not Apostles, women were among the Lord’s disciples, it should be remembered. Jesus, of course, extolled virginity among followers.
An overriding concern for early Christians was the second coming of Jesus. When would the Savior come again to earth and vindicate the persecuted Christians? Would the Savior ever come?
The parable teaches that indeed Christ will come again. He will reign. Present times are passing. The end of all things and all time will be the final and total triumph of the Risen Lord.
Millions of persons have turned from sin to virtue in the last moments of earthly life. For this reason, the Church lavishly allows priests to absolve from almost anything at the hour of someone’s death. It is never too late to repent, nor is it ever too late for the Church, in God’s name, to extend divine mercy.
Still, living in disobedience to God, waiting for some wonderful last-minute conversion, is no way to go. It bespeaks anything but commitment in faith and love.
So, the Church, through Matthew, tells us this weekend to be prepared. Live each day as a disciple.
Life for us can be daunting. Will hardships, disappointments, hurts and limitations never cease? They will cease. Paul is clear. If we are faithful to Jesus, the weary toils and pains of earthly life will be overwhelmed by the glory of heaven.
Being with God is the only thing worthwhile. It alone makes life worth living. It makes death not a terror, but an entrance into glory.
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