November 12, 2017 — Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
If you pay attention, you are aware that our Church year is drawing to a close. Today is the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time. Next Sunday is the Thirty-third, and the last Sunday in November is the Feast of Christ the King. With December come Advent and the new Church liturgical year. Throughout this year most of our Gospel Readings have come to us from Matthew, which is the norm for Cycle A, our current year. With the new Church year we will hear Gospels largely from St. Mark.
As we approach the end of the Church year, we also reach the end of the Book of Matthew. Today’s Gospel comes from Chapter 25. Chapter 26 begins with the Last Supper and Jesus’ final hours before His Crucifixion. Most scholars feel that Matthew’s Gospel presents the fullest account of Christ’s teaching. What we have heard in recent weeks confirms that as Christ has presented us with several teaching parables, including today’s Parable of the Ten Virgins.
The Holy Word as we hear it in scripture and at each Mass is filled with wisdom. Today’s First Reading is drawn from the Book of Wisdom. Written only 50 years or so before the coming of Christ, the primary purpose of the book is basically indicative of its name — the author extols the splendor and worth of divine wisdom. Today’s reading, as is the case with many in Wisdom, is intended to provide background for Jesus’ teaching. “For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence.” Throughout the year we are called to listen carefully and to hear and assimilate the Holy Word of the Lord. Doing that and making an effort to understand the messages of wisdom found therein do bring us wisdom.
In all of his various letters there are four occasions when St. Paul cautions those to whom he is writing, “We do not want you to be unaware…” In other words Paul wants to make sure that they (we) are not ignorant about something. Today Paul writes “We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep.” Paul is speaking about the Second Coming of Christ, and his reminder leads very well into Jesus’ message in today’s Gospel. (The other three times Paul uses the phraseology are when he writes the Romans not to be ignorant of God’s plan for Israel; in First Corinthians Paul says do not be ignorant about spiritual gifts; and in Second Corinthians he says not to be ignorant of the suffering and trials in Christian living).
The phrase “fallen asleep” was common at Paul’s time to refer to death. Were you aware, for example, that the word “cemetery” meant, “sleeping places?” Paul’s point is that we who are living must also be prepared. And there is hope because the reward for being prepared is that “…we shall always be with the Lord.” That is the great reward of heaven — to be with Jesus forever. Paul points out that not even death can break our unity with Jesus and other Christians.
Jesus could not be clearer about the necessity of preparedness on our part. The Lord reminds us in the Gospel from St. Matthew “Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” Jesus wants His followers, His disciples, to be ready and prepared. He also makes it clear the price for failing to be ready is high: “Amen, I say to you I do not know you.”
Holy Scripture prompts us often to be aware and ready. In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul paralleled Christ’s message, stating, “Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than we ever believed.” Disciples of Jesus need to think often about the fact that He may come any time. We will stand before Him and give an account of our lives, of our stewardship really. He has entrusted us with many gifts. Are we ready to justify how we have used those gifts?