Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’  But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

PRAYER FOR THE WEEK

PRAYER TO TURN FROM SIN

Father, Your Love never fails. Keep me from danger and provide for all my needs. Teach me to be thankful for Your Gifts. Confident in Your Love, may I be holy by sharing Your Life, and grant me forgiveness of my sins. May Your unfailing Love turn me from sin and keep me on the way that leads to you. Help me to grow in Christian love. We ask this and all things through Christ our Lord. Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty Father,

strong is your justice and great is your mercy.

Protect us in the burdens and challenges of life.

Shield our minds from the distortion of pride

and enfold our desire with the beauty of truth.

Help us to become more aware of your loving design

so that we may more willingly give our lives in service to all.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

READING I

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Wis 6: 12-16

Resplendent and unfading is wisdom,
and she is readily perceived by those who love her,
and found by those who seek her.
She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire;
Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed,
for he shall find her sitting by his gate.
For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence,
and whoever for her sake keeps vigil
shall quickly be free from care;
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.

APPLICATION

If you were driving along an open road and stopped to give a hitch-hiker a ride and to ask him where he was going and he told you he did not know, nor did he know where he came from, you might be wise not to take him with you. He might be dangerous. There are many men and women on the road of life today who do not know, or at least declare that they do not know, where they came from or whither are they bound. Their journey is only from the cradle to the grave, they say, and their purpose in life is to fit into those few short years all the pleasures and joys that this lowly earth has to give. They have enclosed themselves in mental ghettoes mostly of their own making. They refuse to open their minds to the light of true wisdom, lest it should disturb their consciences and their earthly plans.

Nor are they content to sit alone in their self-made cave of darkness; they want others to join them, like the tailless fox in the fable. Hence the flood of pagan philosophy and false propaganda to prove to all that man has no purpose in this life except to cram into it all the pleasure and plenty he can. From this it appears that our so-called cultured and enlightened society is, if anything, even worse than the pagan society of Egypt of the second century B.C., against which the author of Wisdom warned his fellow-Jews. At least the Egyptians of that day did not have twenty centuries of Christianity to learn from, nor the clear teaching on the meaning of life which Christ’s life, death and resurrection brought to the world. This true knowledge, this divine wisdom is within reach of any person of ordinary intelligence who wishes to know the basic facts of life and death that concern him personally.

We Christians who have all the knowledge we need, not only as to our purpose and end in life, but also as regards the ways and means available to us to reach that end, must not be selfish in grasping this wisdom to ourselves. We must do everything we can to make our fellowman study and learn this same divine wisdom. God has planned heaven for them; he expects us to help him in bringing them there. We must first and foremost live our own lives in strict conformity with the divine wisdom given us so generously by God. Then we must be ready to advise and instruct a neighbor who is on the wrong road. whether from ignorance or malice. As individuals we may not be sufficiently versed in our theology to stand up and refute the pagan philosophies of atheists and others, but we can help by aiding the societies engaged in this work. Where there is a will there is a way. Where there is true love of God, a way will be found to prove that love for God, by helping a neighbor.

The Christian who shares his wisdom and knowledge with his needy neighbor is the true Christian whose personal wisdom will be ever “radiant and unfading.”

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.

My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.

My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.

My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

I will remember you upon my couch,
and through the night-watches I will meditate on you:
You are my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.

My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

READING II

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1 Thes 4: 13-18

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters,
about those who have fallen asleep,
so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose,
so too will God, through Jesus,
bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
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.
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.
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.
Therefore, console one another with these words.

APPLICATION

We have many philosophies which try to solve the problems of man’s life on this earth but no human philosophy has found a satisfactory solution for the problem of man’s death. Materialists may hold that our world had no rational Creator and that all that is came about by mere chance. They must surely be taken aback by the perfection (especially the intelligent mind) which this blind chance brought to man. But it leaves them in the unhappy state of having only a few short years to enjoy the irrepressible desire for happiness which his intelligence creates in him. Such an accident of fate was surely very blind and cruel to man. The sapling oak we plant is far better off because it will be there two hundred years after we are gone and it will never have a moment of worry in its long life.

On the other hand, those who admit a rational Creator but deny a future life for man, make that Creator very irrational and cruel. He has put the qualities and desires for lasting happiness in man but makes their fulfillment impossible if earthly death is man’s final end. Man is evidently the master and masterpiece of all creation but if real life ends for him after a few short years he is in a worse position than that of all the rest of creation. Such a Creator would be not a benefactor but a cruel jester.

Human philosophy, if properly used, can lead the way to solving man’s greatest problem, but it is only in Christian revelation that the full and true answer to the problem of earthly death is found. We are fortunate to have that knowledge. We know that just as and because Christ rose from the dead, we too shall rise again in glorified bodies, or rather as glorified persons, to live on forever in God’s kingdom in heaven. There all tears, all pains, all worries will be ended forever, and all our desires will be completely fulfilled in the beatific vision of God. Even though our bodies will not be the same as those we had on earth, we shall be able to identify one another and to enjoy one another’s company in God’s presence, and this happy state will never have an end.

What a consoling thought! No wonder it is that the great saints of God were willing to undergo any hardship in this life in order to reach that happy state. If we would meditate and ponder over our future life a little more often, we should be better able to take the “slings and arrows” of the fortunes of this life in our stride as the saints did. Death is not something to be feared by the man who believes in God and lives up to that belief. It is a welcome departure from sorrow and an arrival at the abode of eternal peace.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 989 We firmly believe, and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives for ever, so after death the righteous will live for ever with the risen Christ and he will raise them up on the last day.1 Our resurrection, like his own, will be the work of the Most Holy Trinity:
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you.2

CCC 1001 When? Definitively “at the last day,” “at the end of the world.”3 Indeed, the resurrection of the dead is closely associated with Christ’s Parousia:
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.4

CCC 1012 The Christian vision of death receives privileged expression in the liturgy of the Church:5
Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.6

CCC 1025 To live in heaven is “to be with Christ.” The elect live “in Christ,”7 but they retain, or rather find, their true identity, their own name.8
For life is to be with Christ; where Christ is, there is life, there is the kingdom.9

CCC 1687 The greeting of the community. A greeting of faith begins the celebration. Relatives and friends of the deceased are welcomed with a word of “consolation” (in the New Testament sense of the Holy Spirit’s power in hope).10 The community assembling in prayer also awaits the “words of eternal life.” The death of a member of the community (or the anniversary of a death, or the seventh or 30th day after death) is an event that should lead beyond the perspectives of “this world” and should draw the faithful into the true perspective of faith in the risen Christ.
1Cf. Jn 6:39-40.
2 Rom 8:11; cf. 1 Thess 4:14; 1 Cor 6:14; 2 Cor 4:14; Phil 3:10-11.
3 Jn 6: 39-40,44,54; 11:24; LG 48 § 3.
4 1 Thess 4:16.
5 Cf. 1 Thess 4:13-14.
6 Roman Missal, Preface of Christian Death I.
7 Phil 1:23; cf. Jn 14:3; 1 Thess 4:17.
8 Cf. Rev 2:17.
9 St. Ambrose, In Luc., 10, 121: PL 15, 1834A.
10 Cf. 1 Thess 4:18.

GOSPEL

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Mt 25: 1-13

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
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.’
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.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

APPLICATION

Although commentators and writers have found difficulty in explaining many of the details in this parable, the general lesson is clear enough. Our Lord described an incident that happened or could have happened at a wedding festival in order to bring home to his listeners the need for being ever vigilant and ready in his service if they wish to avoid the calamity of being excluded from the heavenly and eternal nuptials on the last day. In the other parable in which our Lord uses a wedding feast to describe his kingdom, the lesson concerns those who refused the invitation and will not come to the wedding. Here it concerns those who gladly accepted the invitation.

The ten bridesmaids, or maidens, in the parable represent all Christians. On receiving the sacrament of baptism, the Christian starts on the road to heaven; he gets his invitation to the heavenly nuptials but this is only the beginning. From the moment he comes to the use of reason he is expected to prepare himself, by living according to the law of God, for the great moment when the call will go forth: “Behold the bridegroom Come to meet him.” This moment will be, first, at the hour of death for each individual when each one’s eternal fate will be decided, and again at the general judgement of the human race. During their lifetime all are invited to the heavenly wedding, and all have the necessary means to get ready. But, like the foolish bridesmaids, many will fail to make use of these means and will realize their folly when it is too late. Sad. but true.

A certain number of those for whom Christ died on the cross, and to whom he gave the gift of his revelation and offered all the helps they needed, will never reach heaven because they exchanged their heavenly birthright for a mess of earthly pottage. That the foolish bridesmaids in the parable lost a golden opportunity through their negligence is evident and we can all sympathize with them up to a point, but the thoughts of very few will turn to the bride and groom who were so seriously insulted by this act of negligence on the part of chosen friends.

So too, every Christian lost is a grievous insult to the God who created and redeemed him. Christians have received the fullness of God’s revelation, and have been offered a special place in his marriage festival; they have received a privileged invitation not given to others. Is it not a serious and deliberate insult to God not to comply with the conditions of that generous offer?

Providing themselves with oil was the obligation imposed on the bridesmaids in the parable. It was surely a trivial condition when compared with the reward offered them: a very special place at the marriage feast. The obligations imposed on us Christians are surely trivial too when compared with the reward offered us in return: an eternity of happiness in heaven. It seems incredible that there are many among us this very day who, like the foolish bridesmaids, doze and sleep contentedly holding empty lamps in their hands, while at any moment they may be awakened by: “Behold, the bridegroom comes! Go forth to meet him.” It will be too late then to do anything; even their best friends cannot help them. Each one must stand before the judge just as he is, there can be no borrowing of the oil of merit from others and there will be no time to buy any.

Now is the time for all of us to say: ‘Lord, Lord, open to us.” open to us the doors of your mercy and kindness. Open to us the eyes of our understanding that we may see our defects and remedy them while there is yet time.

It is up to us now to decide, aided by God’s grace, where we shall be found on the last day—with the wise bridesmaids or with the foolish.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan OFM and used with permission of Franciscan Press

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 692 Before his Ascension Christ affirmed that the hour had not yet come for the glorious establishment of the messianic kingdom awaited by Israel1 which, according to the prophets, was to bring all men the definitive order of justice, love and peace.2 According to the Lord, the present time is the time of the Spirit and of witness, but also a time still marked by “distress” and the trial of evil which does not spare the Church3 and ushers in the struggles of the last days. It is a time of waiting and watching.4

CCC 796 The unity of Christ and the Church, head and members of one Body, also implies the distinction of the two within a personal relationship. This aspect is often expressed by the image of bridegroom and bride. The theme of Christ as Bridegroom of the Church was prepared for by the prophets and announced by John the Baptist.5 The Lord referred to himself as the “bridegroom.”6 The Apostle speaks of the whole Church and of each of the faithful, members of his Body, as a bride “betrothed” to Christ the Lord so as to become but one spirit with him.7 The Church is the spotless bride of the spotless Lamb.8 “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her.”9 He has joined her with himself in an everlasting covenant and never stops caring for her as for his own body:10
This is the whole Christ, head and body, one formed from many. .. whether the head or members speak, it is Christ who speaks. He speaks in his role as the head (
ex persona capitis) and in his role as body (ex persona corporis). What does this mean? “The two will become one flesh. This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the Church.”11 And the Lord himself says in the Gospel: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”12 They are, in fact, two different persons, yet they are one in the conjugal union,. .. as head, he calls himself the bridegroom, as body, he calls himself “bride.”13

CCC 1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”14
Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where “men will weep and gnash their teeth.”15

CCC 1618 Christ is the center of all Christian life. The bond with him takes precedence over all other bonds, familial or social.16 From the very beginning of the Church there have been men and women who have renounced the great good of marriage to follow the Lamb wherever he goes, to be intent on the things of the Lord, to seek to please him, and to go out to meet the Bridegroom who is coming.17 Christ himself has invited certain persons to follow him in this way of life, of which he remains the model:
“For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”18

1 Cf. Acts 1:6-7.
2 Cf. Is 11:1-9.
3 Cf. Acts 1:8; I Cor 7:26; Eph 5:16; I Pt 4:17.
4 Cf. Mt 25:1, 13; Mk 13:33-37; I Jn 2:18; 4:3; I Tim 4:1.
5 Jn 3:29.
6 Mk 2:19.
7 Cf. Mt 22:1-14; 25:1-13; 1 Cor 6:15-17; 2 Cor 11:2.
8 Cf. Rev 22:17; Eph 1:4. 5:27.
9 Eph 5:25-26.
10 Cf. Eph 5:29.
11 Eph 5:31-32.
12 Mt 19:6.
13 St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 74:4: PL 36, 948-949.
14 Mt 7:13-14.
15 LG 48 # 3; Mt 22:13; cf. Heb 9:27; Mt 25:13, 26, 30, 31 46.
16 Cf. Lk 14:26; Mk 10:28-31.
17 Cf. Rev 14:4; 1 Cor 7:32; Mt 2:56.
18 Mt 19:12.

BENEDICTUS

Christian experience begins in the everyday world of communal experience. Today, the interior space in which Church is experienced is, for many, a foreign world. Nevertheless, this world continues to be a possibility, and it will be the taks of religious education to open doors on the experiential space – Church – and to encourage people to take an interest in this kind of experience. When people share the same faith, when they pray, celebrate, rejoice, suffer, and live together, Church becomes “community” and thus a real living space that enables humanity to experience faith as a life-bringing force in daily life and in the crises of existence. One who truly believes, who opens himself to the maturing effects of faith, begins to be a light for others; he becomes a bulwark where others can find help. The saints, as the living models of a faith that has been tried and found steadfast, of transcendence that has been experienced and confirmed, are, so to speak, themselves the living spaces into which one can turn, in which faith as experience is simultaneously stored up, anthropologically conditioned, and approximated to our life. Specifically Christian experience, in the intrinsic meaning of the word, can ultimately grow by its gradually maturing and deepening participation in such experiences – this is what the language of the Psalms and of the New Testament calls “tasting the heavenly gifts” (Ps 34: (; 1 Pt 2: 3; Heb 6: 4). By it one touches reality itself and is no longer merely a “second-hand” believer.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer to Live in God’s Presence

God, my Father, You have promised to remain forever with those who do what is just and right. Help me to live in Your presence. The loving plan of Your Wisdom was made known when Jesus, your Son, became man like us. I want to obey His commandment of love and bring Your peace and joy to others. Keep before me the wisdom and love You have made known in Your Son. Help me to be like Him in word and deed.

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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