This Sunday we celebrate the Thirty-Second Sunday In Ordinary Time. The readings this week call us to consider the role of true wisdom in our lives. The first reading reminds us of how eager God is to bestow wisdom upon His children. Do I actively seek to be wise in the things of God or do I like “playing dumb” with God. Paul reminds us of the source for all Christian hope. Jesus died and rose from the dead. He thus established a new model for our relationship with the Father. God will do for us what He did for Jesus if we are followers of His Son. The Gospel calls on us to examine our waiting skills. Are we ready with flasks full of the oil of a faithful life as well as lamps? Does Jesus know us as friends or do we only know Him by His reputation?
First Reading: Wisdom 6: 12-16
12 Resplendent and unfading is Wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her.
13 She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of men’s desire;
14 he who watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed, for he shall find her sitting by his gate.
15 For taking thought of her is the perfection of prudence, and he who for her sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care;
16 Because she makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her, and graciously appears to them in the ways, and meets them with all solicitude.
NOTES on First Reading:
The Book of Wisdom is probably the youngest of the Old Testament books of the Catholic Bible, dating only from about 60 to 100 BC. I refer to the Catholic Bible’s Old Testament because Wisdom is not found in most modern Protestant English translations of the Bible although it was, along with the other Deuterocanonical books (called “Apocrypha” by the Protestants), in the original King James Version and its revisions until the mid-nineteenth century. The Book of Wisdom was written in Alexandria by a Jewish sage who intended to encourage his fellow Jews to remain faithful to the ancient Jewish wisdom tradition in the face of the challenges presented by both the Greek philosophical ideas and the foreign practices and ways of life that were spreading all over the empire at the time.
* 6:12-13 Wisdom is personified in the Book of Wisdom as a feminine attribute of God who was present as God’s helper at the creation of the world. She is resplendent and unfading because her origin is in God. Here, she is portrayed as eager to go to those who seek her. This accessibility was seen as a sign of God’s graciousness.
* 6:13-16 See Proverbs 1:20-21; 8:1-36.
* 6:14 Dawn was a prime time for prayer among the Jews and to “watch for wisdom at dawn” is probably a reference to prayer to God for wisdom.
* 6:15 They will be “free from care” like Wisdom herself (7:23).
Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18
13 We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore, console one another with these words.
NOTES on Second Reading:
* 4:13-18 This pericope is divisible into four sections which correspond to its four sentences in Greek. announcement of the topic or the purpose of the discussion (v 13) recitation of the creed with a statement of its implications (v 14) explanation based upon a word of the Lord (vs 15-17) final exhortation (v 18)
4:13 The early Church expected that Jesus would return within their lifetimes. The Thessalonians were deeply concerned that their relatives and friends who had died since Paul left would miss out on the Lord’s return. From their perspective, as recent converts from paganism with little experience of the True God, they could not see how Jesus could save those who were already dead upon His return. Remember that Paul , Silvanus and Timothy had only been with them for a few months and they therefore had not had the benefit of extensive teaching time. The apostles probably had not spoken a great deal about death and the Thessalonians were afraid. In this verse, Paul formally introduces the topic. Being asleep is a common Biblical image for those who have died (Ps 13:4, Septuagint text). It is also common in Greek literature.
* 4:14 A formal lemma is used to introduce a very early Christian creedal statement that highlights the death and resurrection of Jesus. The two-part formula implies that Jesus’ resurrection was an act of God and that God will do the same thing for those who die with Jesus. Paul’s use of “we believe” connects him with the apostles, the Thessalonians and the whole rest of the Church. An expanded and perhaps slightly later version of the early creed appears in 1 Cor 15:3-7.
* 4:15-17 These verses contain an explanation of sorts based upon a word of the Lord and using various apocalyptic motifs. Scholars argue concerning whether the word of the Lord is an actual saying of Jesus (such as Mat 24:30) or a personal revelation to Paul or a reference to early Christian prophecy. The prophecy is in verses 16 and 17. Paul asserts that the living will have no advantage over the dead when Jesus returns.
* 4:15 Paul, as did the entire first generation of Christians, assumed that the second coming of Christ, or parousia, would occur within his own lifetime, even though he insisted that the time or season could not be known (1 Thes 5:1-2). For Paul, the most important aspect of the parousia was the fulfillment of union with Christ. Here he focuses on hope for the departed faithful, and then (1 Thes 5:1-3) on the need of preparedness for those who have yet to achieve their goal.
* 4:16-17 These verses appear to be an apocalyptic prophecy. They may be an outgrowth of earlier Jewish prophetic statements concerning the coming of the Son of Man. The words, ” word of command,” ” voice of an archangel” and ” the trumpet of God,” are meant to emphasize the initiative of God in the event. There is no question of human involvement in bringing it about. (See Rev 14:17; 19, 20) Several models or sources for the imagery used here have been suggested: The solemn entrance of a conquering king into a conquered town. The return of the conquering hero or emperor into Rome with his prisoners and spoils of war The biblical description of the theophany at Sinai
* 4:16 Paul uses the same verb for the resurrection of the Christian dead here as he used in verse 14 for the resurrection of Jesus. This stresses that they are both acts of God and that the resurrection of the Christians is a consequence of the resurrection of Jesus.
* 4:17 The words that are translated as “will be caught up together” literally mean snatched up or carried off (See 2 Cor 12:2; Rev 12:5). The verb used here in the Latin version, “rapiemur,” is the source of the term, “the rapture,” when believers will be transported away from the woes of the world. This concept is largely derived from this verse combined with a misunderstanding of Matthew 24:40-41 (and its parallel, Luke 17:34-35) and a few passages from Revelation. The result is a relatively modern (1830s) scheme of millennial dispensationalism known as the pre-tribulation rapture taught by the Darbyites. Order is a typical feature of apocalyptic descriptions. Here it is expressed in a processional fashion. Being with the Lord is the ultimate salvation (5:10; Phil 1:23). Clouds are a typical means of heavenly transport (Dan 7:13). The meeting with the Lord implies some type of transformation (1 Cor 15:51-54a).
Gospel Reading: Matthew 25: 1-13
1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, 4 but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6 At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ 7 Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. 11 Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ 12 But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
NOTES on Gospel:
* 25:1-13 This parable occurs only in Matthew. This is a twin parable to the one of 24:45-51 providing a feminine counterpoint to the story of the faithful and unfaithful servants. It is partially an allegory that develops the hint provided in Luke 12:35-38 together with the general eschatological teaching of Jesus. Matrimonial imagery from Canticles was commonly used by the rabbis to express the relationship between God and His people. In the New Testament the same imagery is used (Matt 9:14,15;22:1-14). Here the precise matrimonial situation is somewhat obscure. Are all ten virgins betrothed to the same bridegroom? Where is the bride?
* 25:1 “Then” refers to the parousia or second coming of Jesus. The comparison is not to any specific person or persons but to the whole situation. The ten virgins are representative of all disciples, expectant believers (2 Cor 11:2).
* 25:2 The labels are applied prematurely and recall 7:24,26; 10:16; 23:17,19; 24:45. The wisdom involved here is a practical wisdom about salvation, not an abstract kind of general wisdom.
* 25:3-4 Compare this story with the contrasted “wise man” and “fool” of Matthew 7:24,26. There the two are distinguished by good deeds and lack of them. The oil here is often taken to be symbolic of good deeds.
* 25:5 The delay of “his coming” sets up the problem, the danger of love growing cold (24:12). Since all the virgins slept, it seems that readiness is the point rather than absolute vigilance.
* 25:6 The Son of Man is a Lord of surprises. The group is startled by His coming in the middle of the night. The cry as expressed in the text may indicate the longing of the early church for the consummation of the kingdom.
* 25:9 The refusal of the wise virgins to share, is intended to indicate that such matters of readiness to accept salvation is a non-transferable personal responsibility. Others can help but the final responsibility for saying yes to the Lord is individual and not optional. It is a choice that must be made by each one of us. We can not “borrow” our way into the Kingdom.
* 25:10 Being ready for the arrival of the groom is the point of the story. We must not sleep until we have sufficient oil to last. When the king returns it will be too late to go in search of oil. The shut door is often taken to mean that admission is not automatic.
* 25:12 An important point is often missed here. The statement is not that the virgins did not know the groom but that he did not know them. The question is not do I know about Jesus or even do I recognize Him but have I made myself known to Him; not is He my friend but am I His.
* 25:13 Some scholars see this command as an addition to the original parable of Matthew’s traditional material, since in Matthew 25:5 all the virgins, wise and foolish, fall asleep. Because the wise virgins are adequately equipped for their task it is likely that the command to stay awake may simply mean to be prepared as in Matthew 24:42,44.</FONT