32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)


32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – on the Gospel

Wisdom 6:12-16

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Matthew 25:1-13

Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

Lamp Without Oil Is Dead

 Imagine the bridesmaids leaving their homes to go and await the arrival of the bridegroom. The following conversation takes place among them:
“Do you think we need to take some extra oil?”
“Why? The bridegroom will arrive at sunset anyway. That’s what the program says.”
“But what if he is delayed. Then we shall not have enough oil for the night?”
“C’mon! Why are you so negative? Why do you always complicate things? You want us to carry extra oil that we are not going to use? Why can’t you see the bright side of things?”
“Yes, but you never know! Me, I am taking extra oil, just in case…”

We know the rest of the story. The bridegroom is delayed and the bridesmaids who took extra oil prove to be the wise ones. Wisdom here has little to do with personal intelligence or IQ. Wisdom is a choice — a choice to do all it takes to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. The foolish ones only hope for the best and do not prepare for the worst possibility.

The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins is told against a cultural background that is so different from ours today. Some words about the Jewish wedding in New Testament times might help us to understand the story better. On the wedding day the bridegroom and his friends would go to fetch the bride from her family. The ceremony took place at night, so the bridegroom’s party would usually set off to arrive at the bride’s sometime after sunset. Meanwhile the bride and her bridesmaids awaited the arrival of the bridegroom and his party. Upon their arrival, the bridesmaids would join the party as they escorted the bride to her bridegroom’s family where the party would take place. They carried lighted lamps for the night journey and sang love songs as they went in the procession.

In the Parable, the bridegroom was delayed and arrived at midnight. Meanwhile, the five bridesmaids who took no extra oil had discovered that they were running short of oil and gone to the village to get some more. Meanwhile the procession left for the bridegroom’s house. By the time they got the oil and found their way to the bridegroom’s house, the party had started and they were locked out. They must have gotten the shock of their lives when they called out, “Lord, lord, open to us!” and heard the voice of the bridegroom, “I do not know you” (vv. 11-12).

This parable, found only in Matthew’s Gospel, probably served as a warning to early Christians who hoped for a speedy return of the Saviour. Matthew is telling them that the return of the Lord may be delayed beyond their expectation and that they should, therefore, prepare for the long wait by providing enough oil for their lamps. Many details of the parable make good sense when seen against the framework of this principal theme. The bridegroom is Christ. The bride is the church (Revelation 22:17). The ten bridesmaids are the totality of the members of the church. The lamps, which all the bridesmaids had, could represent faith which all Christians have. The oil, which some of them had and others did not, would then represent good works. A lamp without oil is like faith without good works — dead and useless (James 2:17).

Is Matthew’s message to his fellow Christians still relevant to the Christians of our time? Very much so! As we draw close to the end of the liturgical year, the church, through the gospel, invites us to contemplate the end – the end of our lives and the end of the world. The way to prepare for the end is not to live in fear and anxiety, or to go after prophets and visionaries that claim to have access to God’s secret calendar of how and when the world will end. Jesus told us that the Son of Man will come back on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead. How and when that will be, we do not know for sure. How then is the wise Christian to prepare for the end-times? Today’s parable gives us the answer: The best way to prepare for the end is to follow the example of the wise virgins. The wise virgins took enough oil to keep their lamps burning. In the same way we should engage and persevere in good works to keep our faith alive. That is the best way to make ourselves ready and prepared for the Lord, no matter when the Lord chooses to come.


32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

 Homily # 1

Wisdom 6:12–16, 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18, Matthew 25:1–13

Be Prepared

Boy Scouts have a motto with which many people are familiar: Be Prepared.

Be Prepared is the motto that Jesus is telling all of us that we must have. This is the point of the parable in today’s gospel reading.

One spring when my mother-in-law was visiting us from Michigan, there was a tornado alert and we all went to a small inner room in our home. After being in there for a while, my mother-in-law said she was going to bed. She was tired and she wasn’t going to wait to see what would happen.  Being a faithful Catholic for her whole life, she was prepared for meeting her Savior and wasn’t going to let the possibility of a tornado interfere with her sleep time, just in case she was going to be getting up in the morning.

Being prepared is important no matter how old we are. Being ready isn’t just for old people. Just read or listen the news about people who die unexpectedly in car and motorcycle accidents every day.

We do not know when our end time will be. The question is not “when is it?” The question is, “are we prepared to wait and be ready?”

Let’s listen to what scriptures say about being prepared. In the gospel, we hear Jesus say, “stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

In the previous chapter of the gospel, Jesus says, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

And, St. Paul tells us in the second reading, “for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”

Well, I think that we all get the message: We do not know when our own end time will be. The only thing we can do is to be prepared for whenever it happens.

Today’s gospel reading is a parable. Parables are an interesting way of telling a story so that people will remember it. It is important to remember at least two other things about a parable.

First, a parable makes a single point. Today that point is that we must be prepared no matter how long we have to wait. The parable is not about some of the virgins sharing with the others. What is required for entrance to the Lord’s banquet cannot be loaned of given by another. It must be procured by oneself.

The second thing about a parable: it is not about somebody else; it is about us. So, Jesus is calling us to conversion and reform!

So, how do we reform? How do we prepare? The gospel tells us that the virgins with the extra oil were “wise.”  Wise means being prudent or sensible. The first reading tells us that we can find Wisdom if we seek her. Wisdom is more than knowledge—it is practical or useful knowledge. Therefore, if we understand the main point of the parable and also are wise, we are called to examine our lives. Real wisdom tells us that to prepare we must order our lives; we must set priorities. And, God must be first!

Once our priorities are in the right order, we have the opportunity to fine-tune them for the rest of our lives. We must realize that God is in control of our lives, not us. We must become less self-centered. Allowing God to be more and more in control is not easy and is a life-long process.

Being prepared is nothing new; we do it all the time in the secular world. What good is a left-behind life jacket on a sinking boat? What if we begin a trip to a foreign country without a passport? How can we begin to prepare for an exam when the test is today?

If the second coming of Jesus were to take place on our way home from Mass, what is one way that we would be caught off guard and not be prepared to meet the God who has been waiting for us and loves us so very much?

Homily # 2

Yesterday I was speaking after Mass with one of the very faithful and generous members of the parish.  She was quite distressed because she was not able to help so many of the people who become present to her, either in person or through the mail or however.  She was particularly distressed because she was not able to assist the poor sitting at the street corners, apparently without work, who needed food and clothing.

And this is a big problem, I think, for all of us.  We would like to help, but we do have to limit our generosity somehow.  We cannot take care of every case of poverty or need that we meet.  What do we do?

May I suggest that the parable of the Gospel today gives us a bit of comfort and relief.

The usual interpretation and teaching brings us a lesson of watchful readiness for the coming of the Lord.  We are led to give thought to the end times.  The Lord will come to all those, who at the time of their deaths, have proved to be loyal and steadfast in their service and love for Him.  He will come and give everlasting life to those who have remained faithful and are ready and have prepared properly for that final moment.  And certainly there is nothing improper with such thinking.  Rather, it is most in order.

But, could we not spend time with one small incident, happening that is not given so much attention?  In the parable the “sensible” virgins came prepared to wait for the bridegroom.  They had oil enough to stand them in good stead.  The other five, called “foolish”, came but were unprepared for the delay that occurred.  They had, foolishly, for whatever reason not provided themselves with what was needed for the event.
They ran out of oil before the bridegroom arrived.

They, the foolish, begged that the sensible ones lend them some oil. The sensible ones said, “No, if we did we might not have enough for ourselves!  You need to go to the store and get some so that you will have enough.”  And so they refused the request of the “foolish” virgins.

There are those who, perhaps, will condemn the “sensible” virgins for their handling of the situation.  Where is the business that Jesus taught about:  If someone asks for your coat, give him your shirt also?  And the later verses of this same 25th Chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel, “Give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, etc.” There is no question that the Lord invited us to a life of charity and generosity.  Generosity even to a fault.  Invited?  He actually commanded it. And we must be charitable and generous, even to the point of giving not just out of our surplus, but also out of our poverty, as did the most exemplary poor widow in the temple.

In the parable here we have the five sensible virgins refusing to assist the others in their need.  Jesus did not condemn them.  Instead, he compliments them and affirms their action.  He praised them for refusing to be conned by the foolish who were irresponsible and foolish in preparing for the ceremony. He agrees with them when they confront the foolish five with their foolishness.  He agreed with them when they insisted that the foolish themselves repair and mend the mistakes they made in their foolishness.

Despite the overwhelming teaching of Jesus that we must be generous and charitable, here in this parable He presents another side to His command to be generous.  We, if we follow his teaching, must ourselves accept some responsibility and care in deciding between legitimate requests for help and those that are the result of irresponsibility and dishonesty.  We are not obliged to give to everyone who says, “Please, please.”  The Lord approves when we use wisdom and common sense in making the decision.

A person trying to follow the teaching of Jesus will be most generous and helpful when such will really assist and help the other, when it will bring growth and dignity and fulfill a need.  But a true Christian should say “No!” and avoid supporting people who are dishonest, foolish, and irresponsible, as were the foolish virgins of the parable.

Many times the decision is most difficult to make.  Our sympathy, kindness, generosity get in the way. I would add that we probably will err more often by being generous, but there are certainly times when we may and should say “No!”

Homily # 3

Saint Augustine is reported to have said, ” the five foolish virgins in today’s gospel are indeed foolish. They were foolish because they kept the difficult commandment of being chaste in mind and body and at the same time neglected the easier commandment to love God and neighbor.” They were to love their neighbor by illuminating the dark streets for the groom with their oil lamps. It is easy to love our neighbor and to love God and it is very difficult at times to lead a chaste life. They were foolish because they overlooked the important and easy commandment to love God and one another and kept the difficult command to be chaste.

Today’s holy gospel is taken from a discourse about the end of the world and the final judgment. The point of today’s Gospel story is that we should always be prepared for the end of our lives.   None of us knows the day or the hour when we will appear in judgment before the Lord.

Today’s first reading and the gospel both teach that we must have wisdom and prudence to be prepared for the Lord’s coming at the end of our lives. As we get close to the end of the Church liturgical year, we concentrate on the end the things. That is why we consider if we are ready for the end of our lives, the end of the world and the final judgment. Nature itself reminds us of the end things during the fall season. We see the leaves fall from the trees and that teaches us that some day we too will have an end to our life. The grass dies off and the flowers no longer bloom as nature teaches us a great lesson each fall. Someday we too shall die. Our Blessed Savior wants us to get to heaven so he is instructing us today be vigilant, to be ready, to be wise, and be prudent.

In today’s gospel story, the task of the bridesmaids was to lead the way with light through the narrow and dark streets of the city. There were no street lamps in those days and it was pitch dark at night. We may presume that the bridesmaids prepared for the wedding over a significant period of time. They probably made new dresses, new shoes, had their hair done and so forth. The foolish bridesmaids failed in the one task for which they were required. The foolish virgins were not prepared to light the way for the groom.

What is our task in this life? Did not God create us to know Him, to love Him and to be happy with Him in this life and in the next? Are we attending to the purpose for which we were created? Are we prepared for the task at hand? Or are we like the foolish virgins? Now is the time for us to make necessary changes to our life. Now is our one chance perhaps, to obtain sufficient oil for the lamps of our souls so that we will be able to complete the task that God has given us in our life.

When we were baptized we received a Baptism candle. The celebrant said to us, “Receive and the light of Christ. Parents and godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. These children of yours have been enlightened by Christ. They are to walk always says children of the light. May they keep the flame of faith alive in their hearts. When the Lord comes, may they go out to meet Him with all the Saints in the heavenly kingdom.” Are we ready to go out to meet Jesus at the end of our lives?

Now that we are responsible adults, is Jesus the light of the world through us? The light of Christ that we received in baptism is to shine before others by the way we live our daily lives. To accomplish all the things that God wants of us it is necessary for us to worship at Mass every week. The Mass is the most perfect and the most powerful prayer that is. In every mass, Jesus offers Himself for us to the Father. We are expected to be present at Mass each week unless illness or some very serious reason prevents us from doing so.

By attending Mass regularly, we will grow and holiness. Each time we have the privilege of receiving Holy Communion, something awesome takes place in our soul. We become what we eat! We become more like Christ each time we have the privilege of receiving Holy Communion. Jesus living in us will continue to shed his gentle light to those among whom we live. We will come to know and love Him more deeply.

As Christ’s life grows within us, we will be inspired to do ever more for Love of God and neighbor. We will be inclined to help at Church. We might start teaching religious education to children, join and the St. Vincent de Paul Society, join the Knights of Columbus, come to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament or any of a host of other activities that help the Church. We will also be inspired to be more careful about fasting regularly. For love of God we will become more willing to deny ourselves licit pleasures.

As we grow in holiness, the light of Christ light will become increasingly clear in our life. His light within us will shine fourth more clearly. Just think of how Mother Theresa influenced the whole world. She was a wise and humble virgin, a little lady who fell in love with Jesus and gave her all for Him. She proved her love for Jesus by serving the poorest of the poor. Her good works follow her to heaven and now she helps to reflect the light of Christ to the whole world for centuries to come. She is like the wise virgins who took ample oil in her lamp and were prepared for the groom, Jesus, when He came.

In this holy mass, let us beg Jesus to help us to change our lives so that we too will radiate the light of Christ in our world.

Homily # 4

We always have  a message from God in our daily readings.

Today in the Book of Proverbs we hear the earliest reference to the Wisdom literature.

They can be traced to the court of Solomon, who, of course, was the founder and patron of the Wisdom Tradition.

The purpose of the Book was to guide the Jewish leaders in advising the Kings on affairs of State.

The problem with the Book of Wisdom occurred when the ancient wisemen drifted away from including God and pointed only to happiness and success here on earth- Doesn’t sound much different than what we do today!

When the Israelite wisemen stuck to including God, as we hear today, the Book is most enlightening.

The key sentence in our verses today is the 2nd last one showing this priceless wife as fearing God-always considered as the beginning of Wisdom.

So while our 1st reading tells us what is important in choosing a mate our Gospel  “fleshes-out” this message.

Lets see what it says.

Matthew tells us clearly how our God will judge us on the Last Day.  The word “talent” is broader than just money-it includes all forms of our God given abilities and Matthew wants tells us God wants us to use and grow our abilities to serve him and others-we are not to hide and waste them!

When we think about this just a minute we see the only practical way to do this is to use our “talents” to do what God tells constantly to do-Love God and our neighbor.

This same message is in our 10 commandments where the 1st 3 tell us to love God and the next 7 tell us to love our neighbor!

Matthew tells us this is how we will be judged.

So this is our challenge of today-Do we have our priorities properly set? Are we using our God given talents as God tells us to do or are we using them to serve ourselves.

Matthew’s message is very clear-a word to the wise is presented!

This challenge is ours today.

Homily # 5

I worked for two years as a youth minister in my old parish. Part of my responsibilities included the junior high school religious education classes.

As part of that job I started a program that included bring all the 6th, 7th and 8th graders together for a lesson on a topic and then they broke into small groups for discussion. One of the lessons I entitled, “What is the difference between what Catholics believe and what most Protestants believe.”

The difference really is beyond the obvious lack of recognition of the authority of the Pope. Catholics really do see their relationship with God differently than even other Christians. Some of the Christian churches are focused on Jesus and me. Oh, I don’t mean to say that others are not given a place in the relationship between a person and God, but that the whole approach is much more dependent on a one on one relationship with God and the other people who surround us are people to be nice to, forgiving of and so on.

Today’s gospel can snare us into the same kind of thinking. I don’t know about you but my attention went directly to the wicked lazy servant. Am I he? What do I need to do? How am I not using my talents? When I arrive before the Master will He be calling me a wicked, lazy servant?

I looked right by the other two hard working servants. I ignored the thoughts of how hard they must have worked, the efforts they must have put forth to achieve what they did. I looked right past the further challenge, of receiving another talents that one must then try to increase. I must admit that I did notice the reward of coming to share the master’s joy, at least for the moment.

You have heard this gospel probably ten to twenty times. Have you ever wondered why the other two servants didn’t help the lazy frightened one? I hadn’t.

We as Catholics should have been asking that question. We are different  from many other Christians by our belief in the communion of saints, as the creed goes, “I believe in the holy Catholic church the communion of saints…” the idea that we are on this journey to the Father together. We are the church, has been reiterated over and over again. The church is not this building but the people. What is not added very often is the words, the living and the dead, the dead who are at this moment being purified and those who in glory, are contemplating in full light, the Triune God exactly as He is, that they have a part in our existence, is at least part of what we mean when we say we believe in the communion of saints.

In a culture that preaches independence, it is hard for us Catholics to remember that we are not only dependent on our God for everything we have and are, but there is also an interdependence not just on each other, but on those who have gone before us. It is easy to say we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us and maybe even believe it, but what we need to contemplate is that we also believe that there is an interdependence on those who have died, that they can help us and we them, on their journey and our journey. Unfortunate about the only time we even consider this truth is when someone close to us dies. We pray for them and then just kind of go back to our independent type living, forgetting that we can pray for those who have gone before us and they, even as they are purified, can petition God for our needs.

The church put it this way in Lumen Gettium:

“So it is that the union of the wayfarers with the brethren who sleep in the peace of Christ, is in no way interrupted, but on the contrary, according to the constant faith of the Church, this union is reinforced by an exchange of spiritual goods.”

The communion of spiritual Goods includes:

Communion in the faith. Faith is a treasure of life which is enriched by being shared. First we as parents and God parents hand down the faith. Second we hand down the faith by evangelizing especially those who have fallen away from the practice of the faith.

Communion of the sacraments. The sacraments are sacred links uniting the faithful and binding them to Christ. It is the Eucharist that you are gathered here today to celebrate that brings that communion about.

The communion of charisms. Special talents given as in today’s gospel, are given to individuals to build up the church. Talents are given not just for the individual but for all of us.

Every thing on earth including the earth itself is held in common. All Christians should be ready and eager to come to the help of the needy and be stewards of the Lords goods.

Communion in Charity. If one member suffers, all suffer together, none lives to himself or dies to himself. Now we are the body of Christ, in solidarity with all people living or dead, the least of our acts done in charity redounds to the profit of all. Every sin harms this communion.

Do we need to be concerned about our use of our talents, our efforts to follow the will of God in our lives as individuals? Absolutely. The Catholic faith goes beyond that. The communion of faith, the sacraments and especially of the gifts or charisms and the communion of charity are paraphrases of First Corinthians. The long traditions of the church have reinforced the scriptures. We the living and the dead are all in this together.

I was recently watching a war movie. At the beginning the troops where in landing boats heading toward the shore of an island. The men where gathered in groups and fear grip their faces. One man stood away from the other groups staring off toward the island. One of the other men broke from one of the groups and came over to the one who stood alone and addressed him.

“If you seek salvation by yourself, you will be like a coal that is cast from the fire.”

We need to be fire tenders. We need to not only keep ourselves in the fire of God’s love, but we also need to help others so that they to stay there. We need also to remember that part of that flame is those who have gone before us and they are ready willing and able to help us fan the fire.

Each day we should be praying, asking, begging our deceased mothers, fathers, friends and relatives to petition before our God for our needs on this journey. Just as we petition for those we love who are still with us today, let us petition before God every day for both the living and the dead.

Catholics really do see the world differently.


BE WISE! : Reflection for 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A – November 6, 2011

Isa ka ba sa mga pumunta sa sementeryo noong Araw ng mga Patay? Kung hindi ka pumunta ay ‘wag kang mag-alala. May natanggap akong isang text noong November 1: “Tinatamad ka bang dalawin ang iyong “loved ones” sa sementeryo? Text DALAW (space) NAME (space), ADDRESS, send to 2366. Sila mismo ang dadalaw sa ‘yo! Text na!” Kung hindi ka man pumunta sa sementeryo sana naman ay naipagdasal mo sila! Mahirap ng sila pa ang dadalaw sa iyo! hehehe… Katulad ng inaasahan, dagsa na naman ang tao sa sementeryo. Bakit nga ba November 1 ang nakagawian nating pagdalaw sa sementeryo gayung ang November 1 ay ARAW NG MGA SANTO? Bakit ito ang araw na “UNDAS” kung tawagin? Di ba’t ang araw ng mga kaluluwa ay November 2? Hindi ko mahanapan ng siyentpiko o historikal na paliwanag ngunit kung titingnan natin ang “psyche” ng mga Plilipino ay marahil mauunawaan natin ito. Tayong mga Pilipino ay may pagka-switik! Sigurista kung tawagin. Kung makakaisa, mang-iisa! Ayaw nating naargabyado. Gusto natin, laging nakalalamang… nakasisiguro. Kaya siguro mas pinili natin ang November 1 sa paggunita sa ating mga yumao ay sapagkat nais natin na ang ating mga pumanaw na mahal sa buhay ay maluwalhati na sa kabilang buhay! Nais natin na ligtas sila, masayang nagtatamasa ng gantimpala ng Panginoon, kasama na sa kalipunan ng mga Banal o mga Santo. Hindi naman masama ang maniguro. Sa katunayan ay ito ang mensahe ng Ebanghelyo ngayon. Ang mga babaeng matalino ay naniniguro na hindi mawawalan ng langis ang kanilang mga ilawan at hindi naman sila nabigo sa kanilang pagiging segurista. Kung naniniguro tayo sa ating mga kapatid na pumanaw sana ay naniniguro rin tayo sa ating buhay dito sa lupa. Sana tayong lahat din ay “WISE!” Ang buwan ng Nobyembre ay hindi lang para alalahanin ang ating mga mahal sa buhay na pumanaw na ngunit ito rin ay pagkakataong ibinibigay ng Simbahan upang pag-isipan natin ang ating sariling kamatayan. Wag tayong matakot na pag-isipan ito sapagkat ang katotohanan naman ay lahat tayo ay mamamatay. May nauuna lang sa atin ngunit siguradong susunod din tayo. Ang mahalaga ay lagi tayong handa anumang oras na tawagin tayo ng Diyos. Maging “wise” tayo sa ating buhay-kristiyano. Iwasan ang masama, gawin ang mabuti habang may oras pang ibinibigay sa atin ang Panginoon. Hindi dapat laging nasa huli ang pagsisisi. Mag-ipon tayo ng sobrang “langis” ng mabubuting gawa at tatamuhin natin ang biyayang pumasok sa “kasalan” ng Kaharian ng Diyos.



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