Summary: We have to BYOB–bring our own brightness. Five prepared; five didn’t. Five were always ready; five figured they’d have time to get ready. Oops.
Thirty-Second Sunday in Course
As we come to the end of this year of grace, a year with even more challenges of every kind than usual, the Word of God focuses on goals, on ends, on what a football coach would call the “last three minutes of the ball game.”
And the first word to understand is one of the critical ones for life: “Wisdom.” We know wisdom as one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, given to each of us in a special way at Confirmation. The Catechism teaches that “God's truth is his wisdom, which commands the whole created order and governs the world.” The author of the deuterocanonical Wisdom of Solomon, who wrote in Greek, uses the Greek word “Sophia,” which is a feminine noun. So that explains why wisdom is referred to as a woman sitting at the city gates, ready to dispense advice from the earliest moments of the day. With wisdom, a man and woman will always know what to do, and will be free from care.Wisdom is envisioned as almost a busybody, discerning who is worthy of her or not, and seeking out the former.
We who follow Christ know that Wisdom and Truth are identical with Our Lord, Jesus Christ, who sends the Holy Spirit of Wisdom to be our Advocate, our Counselor, a constant presence of God through His sacramental ministry.
That means the Holy Spirit, whose name is love, enhances our human life and makes that life meaningful and powerful. The Holy Spirit gives us the strength, even in very difficult hours, to lift our hands and praise God. Even at night the Spirit is working in us, so that when we rise in the middle of the night our first thought can be a prayer like “Jesus I trust in You.” In fact, with the constant presence of the Spirit, we can know that we are protected. Like a nestling bird, we dwell in the shadow of the Spirit’s wings and can chirp away in joy and confidence.
So now we can look confidently at the last three minutes of the ball game–for ourselves and for all of humanity. St. Paul gives us a story that is supposed to comfort us, one that is so wonderful that we can tell it to comfort each other.
Paul speaks of the dead as being asleep. He does that for a good reason. After Christ’s passion, death and resurrection, death is a defeated enemy. The sting is gone because passing from this life is a transition, not into darkness, but into the light of Christ. We bury our dead, but it’s not the end of life. It’s like planting a seed in the ground, a seed that will issue in resurrection, into a brand-new kind of body we will be for all eternity. God will bring back our souls to be united with this spiritual body and our joy and power will be unimaginable.
At the last trumpet, Christ will then gather together all who have died in union with Him, whether ten minutes or ten thousand years before, and raise up those who are still alive into a heavenly community we can’t envision. The key words from wisdom: “we shall always be with the Lord.” We won’t leave Jesus, and He won’t depart from us.
So what does Jesus advise through the words of Matthew’s Gospel? Jesus tells a story, a parable, about ten maidens. The picture is of a first-century Jewish wedding, in which marriageable young women are invited to a marriage. But they have to BYOB–bring their own brightness. Five prepared; five didn’t. Five were always ready; five figured they’d have time to get ready. But the groom was delayed. They all fell asleep.
Then suddenly the bridegroom was there, riding in to claim His bride and have a wonderful feast with all the attendants. “Come out to meet Him!” So all the maidens got up and trimmed the wicks and lit the lamps, but the fools had no oil. “Share your oil,” they cried. “There’s not enough for all of us, you fools. Don’t make your problem ours.” So they went in and the foolish girls had to make do. The feast began and the fools heard the horrid words suitable for unprepared souls who are in the dark: “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.”
So, do you want the secret of going to heaven when you leave this life? Keep watch. The Bridegroom will come to take you with Him, but be ready every moment of your life.