Sunday Sermon for November 8, 2020, 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 second reading today St. Paul provides comfort for those who were concerned about believers in Christ who died before His second coming. Many early Christians thought the Lord was going to return in their lifetime and at His coming, would be shown victorious in Christ and be taken to Heaven with Him. Suddenly, there was a question about the believers who had died prior to our Lord’s second coming. St. Paul assures the Thessalonians that those who have died in Christ will be raised from the dead and taken up with Christ before the believers who will still be alive when He returns.
Needless to say, this is no longer a concern for us since for almost two thousand years, people have died believing in Jesus. So, our hope is not so much in being alive when Jesus returns, but being prepared to meet the Lord face to face on the day we die and our souls go before Him for judgment. Our bodies, however, will not be with us on that day; we will receive our glorified body on the last day. For those who are alive at the end of the world, they will see the Lord with the eyes of their body and know the fulfillment of all their hopes in the wonder and awe of seeing the Lord face to face. Being taken up to meet the Lord in the clouds, they will share in the resurrection without the need to experience death.
This sounds absolutely glorious, but as Jesus tells us in the Gospel, we need to stay awake because we know neither the day nor the hour. Therefore, we need to make sure we keep ourselves in the state of grace and die in that state so we can enter into life. This is simply a matter of prudence. In the first reading we are told that taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence. Since Jesus in the Incarnate Wisdom, nothing is more prudent than being united with Him. He is our only hope; He is our salvation.
While it is true that He is our hope and our salvation, the gift of wisdom will also help us to look more deeply into what this prudence of seeking the Wisdom of God entails. Looking at our Lord merely as our hope and our salvation is an objective truth and can be considered in a way that is self-interested. I once heard an end times preacher interpret the Gospel reading for today in this way. We have the wise virgins and the foolish virgins. The wise virgins brought extra oil for their lamps and the foolish virgins brought no oil. When the bridegroom was delayed in coming, the wise virgins used their oil and refused to share it with the foolish virgins whose lamps were burning out. This preacher explained that this is how things will be at the end: basically, everyone will be in it for themselves and whatever provisions a person may have stored up will be used only for one’s self.
This interpretation completely lacks charity, which is ultimately the point of our judgment. Our first reading today tells us that wisdom is found by those who seek her and that she hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire. In other words, this Wisdom, Who is God, is not an intellectual concept or a bit of sage advice someone might offer us. The Wisdom of God is a Person Who wants to be known and loved for Himself. He loves us, which means He is interested in what is best for us. Therefore, He offers us salvation and eternal life. What is our response to His offer?
By this I do not mean our Lord’s offer of merely salvation and eternal life, but the offer of Himself? After all, we are baptized into the Person of Jesus and we receive His gift of Self into ourselves when we receive Holy Communion. Many wealthy people will understand that there are people who will extend their hands to get some money, but they have no interest in or care for the wealthy person who gives the money. If someone was in a relationship with that wealthy person, the concern would be for the person, not the money.
Jesus wants us to love Him for Who He is, not for what we can get from Him. Entering into a relationship with Wisdom is the wisest and most prudent thing we can do. Love Him for Himself, not for what we can gain. If we do this, love, which is the oil for our lamp, will never run dry, and we will always be prepared with our lamp burning brightly to meet our divine Bridegroom at His coming!
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 www.thewandererpress.com.