12Nov 12 November 2017. 32nd Sunday in Ord Time

Saint Josaphat

Christian Optimism: Everyone suffers sometime from bereavement, and some losses are especially hard to bear. But if we hope in the resurrection we need not grieve like others who have no hope. The quiet optimism shining through the book of Wisdom gets a personal focus in Paul: everything lost will be restored when Jesus returns in glory.

1st Reading: Wisdom 6:12-16

In praise of Wisdom, which is easily discerned by those who love her

Wisdom is radiant and unfading, and she is easily discerned by those who love her,
and is found by those who seek her.
She hurries to make herself known to those who desire her.
One who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty, for she will be found sitting at the gate.

To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding; one who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care, because she goes about seeking those worthy of her, and she graciously appears to them in their paths, and meets them in every thought.

2nd Reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

We should not grieve as others do who have no hope

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died.

For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Gospel: Matthew 25:1-13

We must be ready to meet the Lord when he comes

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 wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do no know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither theday nor the hour.”


Responsible for our own destiny

The refusal of the wise virgins to share may appear selfish. But here we are not talking really about lamps and oil but about people and life. There are certain things you cannot borrow or inherit. Your parents or my parents may have been the best people in the world. If so, that is a blessing beyond measure. But for all that it cannot be taken for granted that we will automatically become decent caring men and women. We can learn from one another, be inspired by one another, but in the last analysis we shape our own destiny. Character cannot be transferred or borrowed. We must build it for ourselves.

The same is true of the faith. Parents and other people are reminded that it is their responsibility to hand on the faith to the younger generation. But again faith is not like a farm of land or a legacy. It cannot be given by a parent to a child. Yes, all kinds of encouragement and good example can help enormously, but in the end, the young person as they grow up to maturity must accept or reject the invitation in his or her own heart.

The arrival of children of their own can often be a decisive moment for young parents as regards the faith. Some never seem to come back, but always remember God has his own way of welcoming people home even if along unexpected routes.

Is there a life after death?

European civilisation derives, in great part, from Greek, Roman and Jewish cultures. But attitudes towards life after death varied greatly between the pagans and the Jews. When confronted with the inevitability of death, the typical pagan response was grim despair. A famous tombstone from the classical period has this inscription, “I was not, I became; I am not, I care not.” Essentially this means: When you’re dead, you’re dead! In similar vein, the Roman poet, Horace, who died the year Christ was born, advises us Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero (Enjoy today, and trust tomorrow as little as possible). This has morphed into the popular motto, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”

In the Jewish tradition, belief in life after death was not widely accepted until the first century before Christ. Before that, they imagined a shadowy existence in a place called Sheol, where the dead could neither know God nor praise him. The Book of Ecclesiastes, for example (about 300 B.C.) says that yes, there can be a certain happiness in eating, drinking and working while on earth, but in the end, all is vanity of vanities.

Christian belief in life hereafter is based on the resurrection of Christ. Because of this, as Paul wrote (Philippians 3:20), “our homeland is in heaven, and from heaven comes the Saviour we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will transfigure these lowly bodies of ours into copies of his own glorious body.” Therefore we should not grieve as others do, who have no concept of eternal life.

Paul does not say we can avoid all sorrow, for sorrow over the death of a loved one is a natural and healthy reaction. What he says is not to be like others, who have no hope. Losing somebody in death causes us anguish, but hope of eternal life consoles us. The November liturgy suggests two things. First, it tells us to be prepared for passing on. People who live their lives close to Christ will not be unprepared to enter his presence. Secondly, it invites us to pray with love for those who have gone before us.

Saint Monica had wanted to be buried alongside her husband, but when she was dying at Ostia, the port of Rome, she made this last request to her son, Augustine, “Lay this body anywhere,” she said, “let it not be a care to you. This only I ask of you, that you would remember me at the Lord’s altar wherever you may be.” Like her, we too believe that in death life is changed, not ended. This is our Christian hope; this is our God-given trust.

Staying alert to the Lord

The wedding banquet is a regular image of eternal life in the Gospels. We can only speak about the unknown in terms of what is known to us. The wedding banquet highlights eternal life as that state when the deepest hunger and thirst in our lives will be satisfied, especially our thirst for love, for God who is love. “O God, for you my soul is thirsting” (responsorial psalm.) In the second reading, Paul also speaks of life beyond death … it is that moment when God will bring with him those who have died and then we shall remain forever with the Lord. Eternal life will mean entering into a new, and fuller relationship with God and with all creation.

The parable warns that one can be excluded from the banquet of eternal life. Only those who were ready went in with the bridegroom to the wedding. When God calls us, will we be ready? Life after death is God’s gift to us and a gift, by definition, can be refused, We will be ready for this ultimate gift, if throughout life we have learned to welcome God’s gifts. Our regular attitudes will help to shape our attitude at the moment of death. Today’s gospel concludes with a call to “Stay awake.” One important way in which we stay awake to God is by prayer. In prayer we look for the Lord, desire him, watch for him and think about him. To pray is to become like a child, utterly receptive to God’s presence within us.


Saint Josaphat, bishop and martyr

Josaphat (1580-1623) was born in Lithuania into a Catholic family and early promoted Catholic unity in a country divided between Orthodox and Catholic. He became Catholic archbishop of Polotsk in 1614. While clinging to unity with Rome, he opposed those Latins who would suppress Byzantine traditions in the name of Catholic unity. A hotbed of trouble was Witebsk, and Josaphat went there to bring about peace. But when he tried to address the mob, he was struck in the head and his mangled body was thrown into the river, making him a martyr to the cause of Christian unity.


3 Responses

  1. Kevin Walters

    It is fair to say that the general consensus on this parable is ‘be prepared stay awake’ but we all slumber because we are all vessels (Lamp holders) made of clay.
    All those who have heard the inviolate Word/Will/Truth of God and acknowledged it within the heart have had the divine spark ignited within them, as the essence of this spark is Truth. When this happens our pure (virgin) journey commences as we now have the light (Lamp) to follow His Light/Way/Path of spiritual transformation.

    As an analogy we could say that the oil is His redeeming grace and the container that holds that grace is a humble heart as only humility can draw upon the oil because only humility can continually trim (Reignite) the smouldering wick.

    Midnight relates to that moment in the journey through life when we enter into a new day (reality) via death. It is fair to say that we all have slumbered, but the prudent in their purity of intent own their negligence before Him and continually trim/renew the wick and when death comes they will always be ready to greet the bridegroom.

    Sadly the imprudent whose lamps presumably had long smouldered, now at this crucial moment in time realise that their lamps have gone out. They never bought into the on-going reality of the need of creating a contrite heart (Container) of humility, the only vessel that can continually contain His Divine Mercy.

    When we look at the good thief upon the cross we can see/deduce that he was already aware of the goodness of God “this man has done nothing wrong” the divine spark within him had been ignited at some time before the crucifixion and held in a heart of humility that is one of self-awareness of his state before God, as he now publicly acknowledges in truth the reality of his own heart (Trims the wick) and embraces before us the ‘Truth’ the essence of Love, as Divine Mercy (Grace) was then given to him unreservedly.

    No man truly knows the full reality of another’s heart before God and when midnight comes we can only hope and pray that all have created an on-going container/heart of humility.

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  2. Pádraig McCarthy

    Take one minute to list as many people you can think of in our world today who you consider to be wise, in any sphere of life.
    Now take one minute to list as many people as you can think of who you do not consider to be wise.
    Which list is longer?

    Wisdom in the Bible could be a kind of philosophical wisdom as for instance in the Book of Ecclesiastes. But it also includes very practical wisdom. Think Solomon making his decision of how to deal with the two mothers fighting over whose child had died, and whose child is still living. There’s wisdom in knowing when to sow the seed, and when to harvest.

    There’s a lot of “wisdom” coming at us as we approach Christmas: “This is what Christmas is all about, and this is what you need to really celebrate Christmas!” A great deal of discretion is called for. But there’s also true wisdom. You may have seen ads on TV about not approaching live electricity cables: “Are you sure it’s safe?” Or a mobile phone while driving: “Would it kill you to put it away?” Get the flu vaccine. Be wise in what you eat. “Drink sensibly.” There’s so much, maybe we switch off sometimes.

    So where do our reading this Sunday fit in? The wisdom of God is a gift. Do we put as much heart into seeking the true wisdom of God as we might to into other areas of life? “The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” (No, that’s not in today’s gospel; it’s in Luke 16:8.) Think of all the ingenuity that went into the schemes reported in the “Paradise Papers” about financial institutions and “high net-worth individuals” – perhaps the “accepted wisdom”, “best practice”?

    Andrew Fastow was Chief Financial Officer of Enron. In 2000 he was awarded a trophy as “CFO of the year.” In 2001 Enron went bankrupt, and Andrew Fastow went to prison. He holds up the trophy and his prison ID card. “I got both of these for doing the same deals. How do you become CFO of the year and commit the biggest fraud in American corporate history by doing the same deals? Something doesn’t make sense,” said Fastow. “You can follow all the rules and still commit fraud at the same time. That’s what I did at Enron in a nutshell. I followed the rules and committed fraud. I didn’t set out to commit fraud. I didn’t set out to hurt anybody.” (Irish Times, 6 January 2016)

    Can we learn some wisdom from this, one of the signs of the times? It’s not enough to say, “Everything I did was legal.”

    Not that laws are bad in themselves, but they are not on their own sufficient for wise and just living. As individuals we need a deeper wisdom. Our institutions need a deeper wisdom. Our governments need a deeper wisdom. How do we arrive at a State with so many homeless? With two million breath tests that never happened? A world with so many migrants and refugees? A world with looming famine in Yemen? With weapons of mass destruction? With a church where, 20 years from now, we may not have celebration of Mass each Sunday in each parish, although we have seen for years what is coming? A world where more that 56 million unborn children are destroyed every year? A world where how we treat the environment today will yield disaster for the children born today? This “Remembrance Sunday” of the war to end all wars, which is still to come true? The prayer of Jesus that “they may be one”, still to come true?

    We need wisdom today as much as, or more than, we ever did. We need hope. And we need to keep our sense of humour!

    Have we oil in our lamps? Are we ready for the wedding feast?

    The rabbi’s disciples came to him one day and asked him, “Rabbi, when is the best time to repent?” He looked at them for a few moments, and he said, “The best time to repent is the day before you die.” The disciples were very pleased with this. But then some of them thought for a moment, and said, “But, Rabbi, we could die tomorrow!” “Yes,” said the Rabbi.

    If you were to draw up a list of three or four essential pieces of wisdom for today, whether on a grand scale or a small scale, for your parish and for Ireland and for the world, what would they be?

    Come, Holy Spirit.

    Wisdom 6:12 Wisdom is radiant and unfading
    and is easily discerned by those who love her
    and found by those who seek her;
    13 she anticipates those who set their desire on her
    to make herself known in advance.
    14 Those who rise early for her will not have to labour,
    for they will find her sitting at their gates.
    15 For to fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding,
    and those who lie awake on her account will quickly be free from care,
    16 because she goes about seeking those worthy of her
    and graciously appears to them in their paths
    and meets them in every thought.
    (Net Bible translation)

  3. Kevin Walters

    “If you were to draw up a list of three or four essential pieces of wisdom for today, whether on a grand scale or a small scale, for your parish and for Ireland and for the world, what would they be?…….

    From an article by Aidan Hart on
    Three pieces of wisdom that will give new life to Parishes, Ireland and the World.

    “(1)“It is a time of purging and purification,(2) a time of repentance and forgiveness, (3) a time of pruning for new growth”………….

    Yes I agree, the blossom of Christianity bears fruit where it will, and I have often seen, as I am sure many reading this post will have seen also, the action/manifestation of the Holy Spirit working in individuals (In a ‘spiritual community’) while often suffering in ‘freedom’ as they opened they hearts to serve the will of The Holy Spirit (Truth) and in doing so gave glory to our Father in heaven.

    Truth is the essence Love and the serving of the Truth often involves suffering as its light exposes evil within oneself, the Church, and the World.
    Taken from today’s Mass readings Greeting Paul’s co-workers, and praise of God’s unfolding plan
    Greet Prisca and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus, and who risked their necks for my life
    Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me;…

    kevin your brother
    In Christ