Sunday Sermon for November 12, 2023, the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Readings: Wis 6:12-16; 1 Thes 4:13-18; Mt 25:1-13

In the first reading today, we hear about wisdom.  What is important for us to understand is that wisdom is not portrayed merely as a virtuous quality, as it is in today’s Gospel reading where, in speaking of the wise and the foolish virgins, the wisdom expressed is related more to prudence or intelligence.  In several books of the Old Testament wisdom is portrayed as a person.  St. Paul also addresses this to the Corinthians where he says Jesus is the Wisdom of God.  So, Wisdom is not only a person, Wisdom is the Person.

The fact that wisdom is revealed as a person helps us understand the other aspects of this reading.  For instance, if wisdom was an attribute such as prudence or intelligence, it would not be readily perceived or found by everyone.  There are some who are not intellectually gifted, and the reception of wisdom will not suddenly increase their IQ scores.  However, the reception of Wisdom from God, while not necessarily making the person more intelligent, can make the person into someone who is very wise and insightful.  One might even suggest the person becomes like a genius, even though their academic ability may not have changed.

That said, when we look at the Gospel reading we can apply the categories our Lord uses regarding the virgins to other situations.  For instance, there are people who are extremely intelligent and very prudent on the natural level.  Perhaps they are savvy with money or know how to manipulate situations and circumstances to their own gain.  At the same time, some of these people have rejected God, the Church, the Scriptures, etc.  In other words, these people have become fools.

So, there are people without a lot of intellectual acumen who are very wise, sometimes among the wisest, while, at the same time, there are some very smart people who are very foolish.  Of course, there are also many examples of smart people who are truly wise and not so smart people who are very foolish.  All this is to say that Wisdom is available to everyone.  As the first reading tells us, she is sitting at the gate.

Not only is Wisdom just outside the gate waiting for us to open the gate and invite her in, but we also read that she hastens to make herself known in anticipation of our desire.  Our Lord wants us to know Him even more than we want to know Him.  His Heart is wide open for us to enter in and begin to soak in all the wisdom and charity therein.  We all know that He will not force Himself on us, so we must make a choice to desire union with Him and take the steps to allow that union.  He is already doing everything He can to get our attention, always waiting patiently for us to open our hearts to receive Him. As the Book of Revelation tells us, He stands at the door and knocks.

I think we can all understand the great good that will come to us if we are filled with divine Wisdom, but it is not merely about what we will receive, but more importantly, it is about who we will become.  If we are united with Jesus, we will begin to change and become more and more like Him.  Obviously, this is a great good, more than that, it is the only way that we will be completely fulfilled in our person because we will become the persons God made us to be.  However, change can be frightening to some people and, if we become more like the Lord, we will become less worldly.  This means some people will reject us, which is difficult for some people.

However, if we pray for wisdom, a gift of the Holy Spirit, we will begin to notice that we will have new insight into issues and problems in life.  Moreover, we will begin to separate what it truly important from what is not.  Ultimately, we will realize that one day each of us will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and be judged on the decisions we made in this life. 

In the second reading, St. Paul talks about the events that will happen on the last day of the world.  Regardless of when that day comes, every one of us will have a last day in this world.  While we may not be taken to meet the Lord in the air, we will be taken to meet the Lord.  In Heaven we will be perfectly conformed and united to God; it only makes sense to begin this process now.  This is true Wisdom, waiting at the gate of our hearts to be found and received by those who love Him.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit