32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Dear Believers in the Kingdom,
In Matthew’s text today for Mass, the ten virgins are waiting for the bride groom. “Stay awake!” is the call and command not only for them but for us as we come to the conclusion of another liturgical year in a couple of weeks. Being ready for the Kingdom is our real goal here on earth. The conclusion of the liturgical year is a metaphor for the end of time, not only for our own individual lives, but for the end of life as we know it. Death for the believer is not a threat, not something we dismiss or shun. The end, of course, is our real home with God.
The ten virgins argue about having enough oil for the lamps. I believe this is a metaphor that no one can help another person prepare for the Kingdom. The virgins wanted the other virgins to share the oil. They said no. That is because people need to find their own way to God and to prepare for God in their own ways.
In other words, the work of life and most especially of death, is up to each of us. We all die alone, no matter the money we have saved or how many family members surround our death bed or the power and authority we have accumulated in life. The act of death is a matter of our individual souls. We can either fear death or push it out of our minds and then postpone our preparation until our last breath. We are sure to settle into fear if we push such reflection down the road. Life is incredibly beautiful and so is death. The virgins hold up a lantern to help us find the light as well.
In the sacred liturgy, we have remembered All Saints and All Souls in this past week. Throughout the month of November, images, prayers, metaphors and love help us heal our grief and carry on our lives. I love this month when the Church offers us opportunities to remember that Christ’s passion, death and resurrection become the pattern we all face in life. We cannot escape death nor the grief we feel when a loved one is welcomed home. Death is fuel for faith. God’s love is the beginning of wisdom.
In my ministry, I encounter many people who fear death. Their lives are full of rage because they cannot control every aspect of living here on earth. I remember an aunt of mine who lost a son in his prime. She never got over his death. She never gave herself permission to let go of him. No other person could help her or save her from such grief as losing a child. That was also in an era where people seldom grieved in public nor even behind closed doors. She grew more and more angry at life, her relatives and friends. Bitterness takes hold when grief is squelched in a soul.
The Old Testament reading from Mass today gives us the goal of perspective and of age and maturity. Wisdom. How beautiful to find wisdom in our lives if we truly trust in the mystery of life, of God, and the beauty of death. Wisdom is resplendent and unfading. Wisdom is revealed upon our asking and makes itself known at dawn. So, when we are faced with profound grief, weariness of life, and when life does not turn out as we had planned, wisdom becomes a cushion to rest our souls. Wisdom happens when our hearts are open, when we have the courage to reflect on life and trust God in prayer. Real wisdom happens in the second half of life. The virgins in the gospel were either foolish or wise.
I pray for such a gift in everyone in our parish, that wisdom may calm the uproars of violence. I pray wisdom may put out the flames of mistrust and hatred among us. I pray we may face the consequences of our own lives so we may be freed with wisdom to live lives of integrity and justice. Wisdom takes a heart that is ready for life beyond our own. Selfishness and self-sufficiency squelch a wise heart. Wisdom is the result of humility and tenderness as we face even the harshest of realities, even death itself.
“Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day or the hour.”
God give you peace,