Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Book of Wisdom supplies the first reading for this weekend. The book’s title 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, possibly to their own children.
This book, among others, arose from this process. The title makes the point that accepting the God of Israel is the wise choice, totally logical, and 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, being available to humans.
The First Letter to the Thessalonians provides the second reading. This letter was sent long ago to the Christian community in Thessalonica, now the city of Saloniki in modern Greece. The presence of Christians in Thessalonica at that time shows that already the Church had moved beyond its geographic origins and was becoming a factor in Europe, not only in Asia.
Paul makes several important theological points in this reading. First, he expressed the Christian thought that life endures after earthly death. St. Paul refined this idea by insisting 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.
Second, Paul drew the link between Christ and each Christian. He favored no theme more. It was fundamental. Christ lives forever. He overcame death. He rose. So, Christians who earnestly accept the Lord must die to share in this victory over death. In this bond, they 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: that, maybe, the virgins, wise or otherwise, were symbols of disciples. While no woman was an Apostle, according to any learned reading of the Gospels or tradition, women nonetheless were among the Lord’s disciples.
Living lives of obedience to, and in the model of Jesus, required more than good intentions. Also, Jesus extolled virginity among followers. It is why the Church respects celibacy.
Early Christians impatiently awaited the coming of Jesus, believing that when Jesus came in glory, all wrongs would be righted. Threatened in so many ways, they obviously yearned for the second coming.
The parable teaches that indeed Christ will come again, eventually, hopefully soon. He will return in triumph, majesty and justice. Jesus will reign over all.
It is as true today as it was in the first years of Christianity. The Christian’s bond with Jesus is profound, but it constantly must be renewed and strengthened. Disciples must be as determined and aware as were the wise virgins.
As for the foolish and sluggish, it is never too late for any sinner to repent. Millions of persons have turned from sin to virtue in the last moments of earthly life. The Church always is prepared to aid in such conversions. It is the purpose of the sacrament of reconciliation. All is forgiven. Start anew.
The Church, through Matthew, tells us this weekend to be prepared for whatever awaits us. We cannot predict the future, so live each day as a disciple. Be with Christ now, not just at the last minute.
Being with God alone is worthwhile. It makes life worth living. It alone brings true security. Death may be inevitable for every person, but eternal life awaits the just. Jesus awaits the just.
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