32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – 12th November 2017

"Be Prepared"

First Reading

Wisdom 6:12-16

Wisdom is bright, and does not grow dim.
By those who love her she is readily seen,
and found by those who look for her.
Quick to anticipate those who desire her, she makes herself known to them.
Watch for her early and you will have no trouble;
you will find her sitting at your gates.
Even to think about her is understanding fully grown;
be on the alert for her and anxiety will quickly leave you.
She herself walks about looking for those who are worthy of her
and graciously shows herself to them as they go,
in every thought of theirs coming to meet them.

Second Reading

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

We want you to be quite certain, brothers, about those who have died, to make sure that you do not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus: God will bring them with him. We can tell you this from the Lord’s own teaching, that any of us who are left alive until the Lord’s coming will not have any advantage over those who have died. At the trumpet of God, the voice of the archangel will call out the command and the Lord himself will come down from heaven; those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and then those of us who are still alive will be taken up in the clouds, together with them; to meet the Lord in the air. So we shall stay with the Lord for ever. With such thoughts as these you should comfort one another.

Gospel Reading

Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus told this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven will be like this: Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were sensible: the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps. The bridegroom was late, and they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. But at midnight there was a cry, “The bridegroom is here! Go out and meet him.” At this, all those bridesmaids woke up and trimmed their lamps, and the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, “Give us some of your oil: our lamps are going out.” But they replied, “There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves.” They had gone off to buy it when the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding hall and the door was closed. The other bridesmaids arrived later. “Lord, Lord,” they said “open the door for us.” But he replied, “I tell you solemnly, I do not know you.” So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.’

Scripture readings – Courtesy of Universalis Publishing Ltd. – www.universalis.com

REFLECTION

“Be Prepared”

by Fr Michael Scott

In early November, we see all around us signs in nature that remind us of the Winter that is coming. In today’s Gospel reading we are reminded of the future life that awaits us – life with God. Jesus teaches us this through a parable from real life based on Palestinian matrimonial customs… the story of the 5 wise and the five foolish bridesmaids. The message is clear and simple. ‘Be prepared!’ … ‘Don’t waste time’.

In Shakespeare’s drama ‘Henry V’ when the King was imprisoned, he lamented: ‘I wasted time and now time waste me.’ It may be the lament of many people when they come to die: ‘I wasted time’! None of us know the hour or the day the bridegroom will come.

The story is told of a King who had a Court Jester he was found of and who kept him amused. One day the King gave the jester his sceptre and said: ‘Keep it and when you find another person more stupid then yourself give it to him’.

Years later the King fell seriously ill and was close to death. He called the jester and said to him: ‘I’m going on a long journey.’
The jester asked: ‘When are you coming back?’
‘I’m never coming back’ replied the King.
‘And what preparations have you made for such a journey?’
‘I’m made no preparations.’
‘Your majesty is going on a journey of no return and you’ve made no preparation for it?’ said the jester surprised. ‘Here, take the sceptre… I have found a person more stupid then myself.’ And he gave the sceptre back to the King.

When the five foolish bridesmaids came back late they found the wedding hall barred and bolted. ‘Let us in’ they said and the reply came back, ‘I do not know you’. The greatest tragedy in life would be to come to the end of it and be rejected by the Very One who came to save us, ‘I don’t know you… away from Me’.

The poet Tennyson has a verse on this:

‘Late, late, so late! and dark the night and chill!
Late, late, so late! but we can enter still.
Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now.

No light had we: for that we do repent;
And learning this, the bridegroom will relent.
Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now.

No light: so late! and dark and chill the night!
O, let us in, that we may find the light!
Too late, too late: ye cannot enter now.

Have we not heard the bridegroom is so sweet?
O, let us in, tho’ late, to kiss his feet!
No, no, too late! ye cannot enter now.”’

There is no sound so sad and laden with tears of regret as the sound of the words: ‘Too late’!

May such not happen to us! Amen.

LECTIO DIVINA

by Fr Juan José Bartolomé SDB

Introduction to Lectio Divine

Today the word of God invites us to focus our attention on one of the attitudes most characteristic of the Christian life, namely hope.  It is good that in the Gospel Jesus makes us aware of the risks we run if we do not prepare diligently for his coming. Nowadays it is not easy to live in hope. With great effort we have created a world that is highly organized, and maybe also more just, but with limited success. This world of ours offers few reasons for hope. The things in life that we have not yet achieved are not enough to keep alive our hope for the future. We are satisfied with what we have at present. The future does not inspire us with hope nor does it encourage us to make greater efforts. We are unable to make sacrifices for something that we have not yet got. We strive to hold on to what we have instead of hoping for what we have not yet attained.

Read: understand what the text is saying, focussing on how it says it

The last great discourse of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel (24, 1 – 26, 1) is addressed solely to the disciples. They marvel at the splendid view of the Temple from the Mount of Olives, and they are dumbfounded by Jesus’ prediction of the proximate end of that world. They asked Jesus when it would happen (24, 3). Jesus gave some signs (24, 4-41) but he insisted mainly on the need to be prepared. “Stay awake, therefore, because you do not know the day when your master is coming.” (24, 42)

The parable of the ten virgins (25, 1-13) is meant as an urgent call to vigilance. It begins with an everyday experience: a group of young women, perhaps not all of them virgins, was following a young man on his way home from a visit to his intended bride. But something unusual occurs. A man about to get married does not want to delay the celebration.  No reason is given for the delay (25, 5) but it was a possibility that should have been borne in mind. The story focuses on the need to be prepared for every eventuality, even that of a long and unexpected delay. If the bridesmaids are expected to wait, without knowing when the bridegroom is to arrive, they should prepare well for a long wait and have everything ready that they will need for their vigil. Not all those who have stayed awake will take part in the wedding feast, but only those who are awake and have kept their lamps burning.  All who have light in the night will be admitted to the Lord’s banquet. What distinguishes the wise from the foolish is not sleep, or the long wait, but having the light.  The bridegroom may arrive at any moment, even in the middle of the night.  They must be vigilant therefore, and prepared, without having to depend on others, but equipped with whatever is needed. It is not enough, then, to hope, nor even to remain virgins, because the bridegroom wants to be accompanied by prudent virgins, people who keep watch because they know that their Lord is coming, and have provided themselves with oil to fill the time of waiting with light. If they want to be recognised and admitted to the feast, they will have to keep watch always with lamps burning.

Meditate: apply what the text says to life

Here we have the beginning of the last great discourse of Jesus in which he forewarns the early Christian community against a kind of complacency that the Christian life can instil.  If we are hoping for something, it means that we have not yet got everything. No one should feel secure while waiting for the Lord who is still to come. What we hope for, therefore, is also our criterion for discernment. The fact that Jesus gives his warning in the form of a parable does not mean that we can afford to take it less seriously.

The story reflects well the customs of Jesus’ time.  A group of young women carrying candles accompanied the bride-to-be to the house of her fiancé. The feast was delayed because of an unexpected delay on his part. The candles or lamps became more necessary than ever, and it was the bridesmaids’ responsibility to keep them burning. Since they did not know when the bridegroom would come, some of them got oil, and their foresight and prudence gained them admission to the feast. To enjoy the Lord’s presence, it was not enough to live in expectation. They had to be prepared and, if the feast was delayed, they had to have the necessary light.

We are handing on to our young people a world in which they can have everything and every experience without having to wait. Life has ceased to be promising because we can provide everything ourselves, at our own discretion.  We do not want to wait for something better than what we have now, and so we have stopped dreaming of a better future.  Today, more than ever, we live without hope.

Our inability to believe in something better has taken away from us any desire to wait or go in search of it. Nobody goes in search of something he does not hope for. The sad thing is that, because we can live happily without that something better, we continue to live unsatisfied lives because there is something missing. The worst thing of all is that, because we who are people of faith go through life without expecting anything new or better, we are disappointed with ourselves and with God.

The fact that we have not yet obtained all we desire should not discourage us or harden our hearts. Not being able to satisfy our every need, despite our best efforts, should remind us that God alone can satisfy us completely. A Christian can be happy, not because he has everything that life can offer, but because he hopes for everything from God.  He feels a need for the things he has not yet got, but does not despair when he lacks something. He knows that his happiness lies, not in what he has, but in what he hopes for. If we can be happy with the little we have, then what we still lack gives us reason to hope.

What Jesus wants to reminds us of in this parable is that it is not enough to have faith in God – we must put all our hopes in him. Only those who were prepared, with lamps lit and with cans of oil, ready for whatever might come, were admitted with the bridegroom to the feast. All the young women were invited but some of them lost their opportunity through lack of foresight. They were not prudent enough to prepare for an unexpected delay on the part of the bridegroom. They were not prepared to wait and the bridegroom did not wait for them when he arrived. Because they did not keep their lamps burning, they were not admitted to the feast. This is the danger Jesus is warning us about. If he comes late and finds us lazy, our tiredness will grow more than our hope. If we think he will not come today, we may not be ready for him tomorrow. Our lamps, like all our best illusions, are for other things, other plans or other people. Our life becomes ever less resplendent, ever more delusory.

Since we are not too preoccupied about when he will finally arrive, we do not feel his absence, and since we do not miss him, we do not really wait for him.  And so, having lost the hope of one day finding him, we are losing God, bit by bit every day, without realizing it. Today we forget him a bit more than yesterday, because today we were not able to have him totally and we lose hope of ever being able to have him. We are emptying ourselves of God every time we lose hope of having him – we throw God out of our lives and out of our hearts, because we cannot bear not having him already within our reach. And yet, if anyone has reason to hope for a better world, surely it is we who believe in him.  We are not people without hope, and we should not live like people without hope. Knowing that he will come should make us faithful in waiting, witnesses of our hope.

We will be hope-filled witnesses only if feel that God is far away and perceive his absence as a prior condition for waiting for him in hope. The first step in conversion to hope is to lament God’s absence and long for his return. Our waiting will be of benefit if we are not idle, but busy preparing for his coming.  We should not forget that the foolish virgins passed day and night in waiting. They kept vigil until the bridegroom arrived. Their only mistake was lack of foresight. They did not acquire what was needed to keep their lamps lit. They were all virgins, as they were supposed to be, but they were not very clever. Their long hours of waiting were of little use to them, because they did not have what was expected of them.

When the Lord comes to meet us he will invite all who are waiting for him, vigilant and wise, to share his joy and his feast. Those who are willing to accept his delay, not only today but tomorrow too, will enjoy the company of their Lord. If we really believe that God can knock on our door at any time, we will always be ready to answer. Knowing with certainty that God will come, no matter how long he may delay, like the bridegroom in the parable, should fill our hearts with expectation and our hands with good works. We should not get discouraged because he delays, but we should be prepared. If he comes late in the night, it is all the more reason why we should be vigilant to ensure that he does not find us asleep.

We will not wait for God unless we love him.  Only if we miss him will we wait in hope for him. And we will miss him only if we love him and know that we do not yet possess him. We wait for the absent loved one, not for love that is lost. We work for love that can still be restored, not for love that is dead. Herein, perhaps lies the strongest reason for our lack of hope and our foolishness – we do not love God enough to really feel his absence. We do not truly love God if we do not dream of the day when we will see him face to face. We do not love God enough to speak about him and speak to him constantly, even though we do not yet possess him fully. If we truly love God and hope in him, his delay will not be an obstacle to our keeping vigil and we will not fall into inactivity. Hope keeps us awake, fills us with the resources we need to make our waiting fruitful.  It makes us more diligent and never less loving.

In a world where there is little hope, we Christians who love the one who is to come have a mission to accomplish: to fill the darkness with light until the day of the Lord comes. Is there any other mission more urgent than this at the present time?

PRAYER

Defend us, Lord, against every distress
so that, unencumbered in body and soul,
we may devote ourselves to your service in freedom and joy.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

IMAGE

BePrepared