November 12, 2023 — Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
WIS 6:12-16; PS 63:2-8; 1 THES 4:13-18 OR 4:13-14; MT 25:1-13
Wisdom is a central theme in our readings today. It is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and it is key to living the stewardship way of life in our complex world. As Christian stewards, we should rely on this gift and ask the Holy Spirit to increase it within us.
Our First Reading is taken from the very Book of Wisdom. It instructs, “Taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence, and whoever for her (that is, wisdom’s) sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care.”
How does the seeking of wisdom — not worldly wisdom, but the wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit — “free us from care”? It causes us to rely on God to lead and guide us. This is indeed a freeing way to approach life, removing the pressure from us to have all the answers — because the truth is, we don’t. The world is too complicated and unpredictable. The Christian steward can rest in the power of the Holy Spirit to help us navigate any situation.
No situation is more complex (or painful) than death, a subject that St. Paul takes on in our Second Reading from his letter to the Thessalonians. Paul teaches us to be wise in our attitude towards death — our own and that of our loved ones. He advises that we not be “unaware… about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”
This is both comforting and sobering. It reminds us that death does not have the final word, because Jesus has conquered even death. But it also calls to mind the inevitability of death. We are wise stewards if we live our lives with this truth in mind, setting priorities that will keep us ready to face our judgment day.
Jesus makes this point very explicitly in our Gospel passage from Matthew. He tells the parable of 10 virgins awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom who will welcome them into the wedding feast. Five of the virgins were foolish and five were wise. The foolish virgins failed to bring oil along with their lamps when they went to meet the bridegroom. The wise ones, however, had prepared and brought sufficient oil to keep their lamps lit when the bridegroom came. The foolish virgins, caught off guard, ran off to buy more oil, but they were too late. The door to the wedding feast was locked to them. Jesus cautions, “Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
The stewardship way of life — with its daily and weekly commitments to giving God the best of our Time, Talent, and Treasure — is the “oil” that we always keep with us. When we have this plan in place and we rely deeply on the Holy Spirit to guide us through the twists and turns of each day, we are free, we are ready to answer the Bridegroom when He calls us. We live in wisdom.