|32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
First Thessalonians 4:13-17 or 4:13-14
So as to become more receptive to God’s grace offered to us in the liturgies of the Word and the Eucharist, we might imagine Jesus’ sitting with his disciples. He is reading to them from the Book of Wisdom and nodding his head while explaining to them why he agrees with what he is reading.
He looks up and sees a wedding party walking by with lovely young
women leading the procession. He smiles at them and then at his disciples.
“That reminds me of a little story I once heard.” Jesus then puts
the book aside and relates a little parable about what happened one time
when the bridegroom was late and some people were not ready when he finally
arrived. The disciples look around at the wedding parade and notice
that at least this time, the lucky bride had her mate in tow.
We are invited by today’s readings to a wisdom which is patient and watchful. This wisdom differs from age-gained wisdom which flows from experience. This wisdom is available to those who prefer prudence to impatient lust.
We can pray these days for the watchfulness which allows God’s ways
to be revealed in time. God’s ways are not a blueprint plan which
each of us has to figure out. In the Opening Prayer the church asks
us to join our prayers together and ask for a “freedom” of spirit which
gift, we can use to grow more available to a wisdom which searches for
us rather than to be sought by the learned only. One step towards
the reception of this wisdom is the way we grow accustomed to the spirit
and actions of Jesus as seen in the Gospels. Is Jesus worth waiting
for and are we attracted to his ways in such a way as to keep a sharp eye
and a well-trimmed heart.
We are celebrating the last few weeks of the liturgical year before being called through Advent to a closer following of Jesus. These next three Sundays’ readings have a sense of urgency about them as if time is running out and there is so much to interiorise.
In today’s First Reading we hear a section from a larger chapter in which Solomon begins his own history of encountering Wisdom. The chapter begins with his telling kings about the importance of their remembering that the power and authority they have comes from God and they will be held accountable for how they use their power. Then the chapter closes with his inviting all to hear how he came to love wisdom.
What we do have here today is a poetic personification of Wisdom, who searches for those who are attentive and open. “She” is both beautiful and makes “herself” known easily. Wisdom attends those who come at dawn to the gates. These gates might be the five senses through which awarenesses enter to be stored for reflection. These gates as well might be the more practical ways wisdom might be employed to assist others.
Wisdom is not the property of the learned, but those who have an increasing sense that there is more about than meets the eye or ear. Wisdom is seen as a someone who makes the rounds and delighting in those who want more of “her” and not merely for themselves. It all seems to depend on being attentive rather than crafty.
The Gospel is another parable which can seem a bit harsh or unfair. As with the recent parable about a person’s being invited to a wedding feast, but then gets thrown out because he lacks the proper attire, so here, too, there is some exclusion. It is important to remember that parables are meant to be remembered and so they have to catch our attention. Five young girls forget to bring enough oil for their lamps and five do bring enough. The story would be forgettable if the well-oiled five shared with the oil-less. They don’t! They are left out in the dark and cold! This gets our interest and how is the homilist going to get Jesus out of this unchristian predicament!?
Perhaps the oil is faith which each person has to receive and interiorise him or her self; in that sense it cannot be divided and shared like a loaf of bread. Perhaps the lamps are the “seeing” the light by which one waits watchfully for the coming of the bridegroom. The bridegroom might be Jesus whose coming seems slow and delayed. So then, perhaps the lighted lamps is faith leading to hope and hope is the watchfulness and the staying awake through the darkness of night.
It is hard for us to hear that the bridegroom would say that he did not know the five now knocking to be admitted. That can make us wonder whether he will know us. The answer to this has something more to do with whether or not we know him by our knowing what watchful waiting is in the dark times of our lives.
In our part of this world, it is getting “later earlier,” as my father was known to say. The darkness is an earlier visitor and lights become comforts to us. There is a wisdom which is offered us as a comfort also. The willing suspension of our scientific exactness does free us for a being comfortable with not knowing, not seeing and a slow surrendering to our egotistical demands for certainty. The “bridegroom” does not recognize the five because they went and bought “light” or plastic wisdom and this distorts the person, the figure, and the identity of those knocking. They are covered with a certainty while those already admitted were bathed in the wisdom and light which faith provides. It is very hard, to be both in the demanding spirit of needing to know and be of faithful waiting. We grow sleepy from trying to understand it all. When we do not understand that does not mean we douse our lamps and retire. Rather, we can continue waiting and watching in faith while the divine slow-comer takes his good-natured time and ours.
“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” Ps. 23.
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