31Aug 31 August. Friday, Week 21

1st Reading: 1 Corinthians (1:17-25)

The mystery of the cross is wiser and stronger than us

My brothers and sisters, Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Responsorial (Ps 33)

R./: The Lord fills the earth with his love

Rejoice, you just, in the Lord;
praise is fitting from the upright hearts.
Give thanks to the Lord on the harp;
with the ten-stringed lyre sing him songs. (R./)

For the word of the Lord is faithful,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
and fills the earth with his love. (R./)

The Lord frustrates the designs of the nations;
he foils the plans of the peoples.
But the plan of the Lord stands forever;
the design of his heart, through all generations. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew (25:1-13)

Ready or unready: the wise and foolish bridesmaids

Jesus said to his disciples, “Then 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 the day nor the hour.”


Eschatology: the last things

Our holy Scriptures suggest that not everyone is assured of salvation. Some conditions need to be met. Only five bridesmaids were there to welcome the bridal party; the others were told, “I do not know you.” The interpretation of this parable developed with time. In it Jesus was warning that salvation was not guaranteed through perfect observance of law and tradition. In this he was in continuity with Old Testament prophets up to John the Baptist, who bluntly corrected those who preened themselves on being Israelites, with Abraham as their father, “God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” Jesus, therefore, was not saying anything new, only imparting a greater urgency to the oft repeated prophetic challenge.

When Matthew wrote, a controversy was raging between Jews who believed in Jesus the Christ and more conservative Jews of the Pharisee legal tradition. The former saw themselves as disciples both of Moses and Jesus, the latter condemned the Jesus-followers as traitors to Moses. As St Paul was painfully aware, while some of the Chosen People accepted Jesus, the majority did not. The Messiah had come in unexpected form and many were unready to welcome him. Already in Matthew’s gospel, interpretation of the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins was still evolving. The Christians faced the question of when to expect the second coming of Jesus. The obvious moral was, “Keep awake, for you know not the day nor the hour.” Being baptised was in itself no guarantee of being ready to welcome Jesus on his return. As we read this parable, we sense the pathos of the foolish bridesmaids. They did nothing seriously wrong, but by nodding off to sleep they let their golden chance slip by. We need the repeated reminder, “watch, for you know not the day nor the hour.”

On the other hand, some are so absorbed in the quest for a rarified spirituality that they despise this present life and under-value the material world. The danger is that hyper-spiritual ideals can weave a web of immorality without knowing it. Such people can nod off into mysticism and hardly notice the real condition of their lives. Paul warns against the danger of a false kind of wisdom, and preaches the deeper wisdom of the cross.

Arriving home

How nice it is to be met by someone when we get home from a journey; and all the more gratifying if our arrival has been delayed. Recognizing the hoped-for face in the crowd, despite our late arrival, makes us appreciate their friendship. They have been faithful, in spite of the inconvenience of the delay. The bridegroom, in today’s parable, who turned up late must have been gratified to find at least some of the bridesmaids there to meet him with torches lit, to escort him to the wedding banquet.

Immediately after this parable, Jesus says, ‘Stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.’ The Lord expects us to stay faithful, especially during those times when he seems absent and our expectation seems in vain. When the Lord calls us to be his followers, it is meant for the long haul; he wants us to keep our light burning right to the end, through good times and bad times. Earlier in this gospel he calls his disciples the light of the world, who should let their light shine so that people can see their good works and become aware of God through them. Keeping our lamps burning, letting our light shine to the end, amounts to doing the good works the Lord calls on us to do, for as long as we are able to do them.

(St. Aidan of Lindisfarne, bishop and missionary)

Aidan of Lindisfarne (d. 651) was an Irish monk from Iona monastery, who went as a missionary to Northumbria. He founded a monastic cathedral on the island of Lindisfarne, served as its first bishop, and travelled throughout northern England, spreading the gospel both to the nobility and the common people. A glowing account of Aidan’s life was later written by the Venerable Bede (672-735). For his Irish origins, his Scottish monasticism and his ministry to the English, St Aidan was once proposed as a possible patron saint of the United Kingdom.

3 Responses

  1. Brian Fahy

    My seminary days did not fill me with joy, quite the opposite, but one writer did. I came across the American Jesuit priest and scripture scholar, John L McKenzie, and his book about the New Testament, ‘The Power and the Wisdom’. His writing was vivid and alive and his ability to express the beauty and the truth of Jesus gave me great inspiration. In a time and place that I found arid and depressing here was an oasis of life and vivid faith.

    Saint Paul puts it powerfully today. Some people look for fantastic signs of God so as to believe. Others try their best to think through the puzzle of life and to develop a philosophy that makes some sense to them of our conflicted world. But, as Paul says, who would have ever thought of loving your enemy as an insight into the healing of life? Who would have thought it made any sense to offer the wicked man no resistance? Who would have agreed with the idea of loving others as the true test of loving God?

    Faith in Jesus seems to many to be nothing but foolishness and the cross is beyond understanding. But there it is. We preach a crucified Christ. Many taunted the man on the cross and still do. Many stood there in anguish and silence, and then a soldier seeing all that had happened, was moved to say, ‘This truly is the Son of God.’

  2. Towera Vwalika

    I like this web and I would like to be receiving these reflections

  3. Pat Rogers

    #Towera (2.)
    Glad you like our site,Towera. While we do not email our daily homily resources to individual readers, they can easily be downloaded for personal use; and indeed it’s best if they are actively EDITED by homilists to suit their own particular situations. Also, by using our CALENDAR feature you can read ahead and see what other resources are provided for the remaining dates of each month.

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