Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 12, 2017 – Year A
Readings: Wis 6:12-16 / Ps 63 / 1 Thes 4:13-18 / Mt 25:1-13
by Rev. Dan Kelly, Guest Celebrant
There was once a poor farmer who lived on a hillside. Way up on the mountain was a monastery. He thought “I need a way to get down to the village to get my supplies. I think I’ll go up to the monastery and see if they have a mule I can buy.” So he hiked way up the mountain to the monastery. It was a long and difficult hike. It took him a long while, up hills and down valleys, but finally he reached the monastery. He knocked on the door and spoke to the superior. He said, “Father Abbot, I need a mule. Do you have one you can sell me?” Father Abbot replied, “I think we do. There is a brother down at the barn working. Go down and ask him about a mule.”
So the man went down to the barn and spoke to the brother there, asking about a mule for sale. The brother said, “Oh, you are in luck. I just trained this mule here. She is strong and smart and will obey your commands. All you have to do if you want to go is say ‘Alleluia,’ and to make her stop you say ‘Amen.’”
So the man took the mule, got on her and headed toward home down the hills, through the valleys and along the cliffs. The mule began to pick up speed and was moving pretty quickly. Suddenly they were approaching a cliff! The man was panicked. He tried to remember the command word to get the mule to stop. He thought, “Oh, what is that word? Is it Jerusalem? Stop? Halt? Oh Lord, please help me to get this mule to stop, in Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.” And with that the mule stops just at the edge of the cliff! The farmer is relieved. With a big sigh he says, “Alleluia!”
I think you’d have to stretch your imagination to see any connection between this story and the reading for today, but it is a good story.
This week is a good week if you like saints; and who doesn’t like saints? We have a feast day this week for the first US citizen to be named a saint. She is St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. She followed the immigrants to the US and served them as they settled into life in their new home. She helped set up schools for them.
The next saint is St. Margaret of Scotland. St. Margaret was not Scottish, but Hungarian. She married a king of Scotland and was the mother of eight. She helped root out the remnants of paganism in Scotland during her life.
Another saint sharing the same feast day as St. Margaret is St. Gertrude. She was a Benedictine nun and a mystic. She was known for being able to welcome women making a retreat at her convent.
On Friday we honor St. Elizabeth of Hungary. She was the wife of a king of Thuringia in Hungary. She lived a holy life caring for the poor and sick.
I mention these saints whose feast days are celebrated this week to reinvigorate our interest in saints, because they are good examples for us to follow, and everyone needs a good example.
Now to the scripture readings.
The first reading is taken from the Old Testament book of Wisdom. If you look at the book of Wisdom, you see that it is about God, and it is written using feminine pronouns. It speaks about Wisdom helping and guiding us through the day. Reading the book, you can see how loving God is and how He will always be there. In Greek the word for wisdom is Sophia. In Turkey, in Istanbul (which used to be called Constantinople) is the cathedral “Holy Wisdom” (in Greek: Hagia Sophia). That cathedral is still standing. However, although it was a cathedral for many years, it is now a museum, because Turkey is no longer Christian.
The gospel reminds us what to be doing, because the devil is always at work. In the parable told of the ten virgins, five virgins were prepared and five were not ready. What does that mean for us? This brings us to the core of the work of the devil. The devil does really exist; it is not imaginary. The devil and his assistants do everything they can to break up our relationship with God. Lucifer (the name of the principal devil) was one of the archangels. (The other archangels were Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.) Lucifer wanted to be better than God and was eventually cast out of heaven, taking with him many other angels who were not loyal to God. Since then, Lucifer’s main goal has been to disrupt God’s plan for this world. He does that by tempting you and me. He sometimes tells us that we have the right to be angry, or we are owed something because we deserve it; and he is successful at times.
So the story goes that Lucifer was concerned about not having enough souls coming to him so he picked three of his devils to send to earth to improve his numbers. He told the first one, “You go to earth and do everything you can to get more souls to come to hell.” The devil went to earth and tempted people by telling them to be as selfish as they wanted, because God is just a delusion. He was successful in getting more souls for hell and Lucifer approved but wasn’t satisfied.
So he sent a second devil to earth to trick more souls. The second devil went to earth and told people that not only did God not exist, but they could do whatever they wanted. More people, delighted to think they didn’t have to follow the commandments and could do whatever they wanted, entered the gates of hell.
Lucifer was pleased but he wanted more, so he sent a third devil. This devil went to earth as well, and when he returned, he met with Lucifer who was very impressed with the large number of lost souls entering hell as a result of this devil’s work. Lucifer asked him, “How did you do all this? What is happening here?” The devil responded, “I told all the people to pray, go to Mass frequently and do all kinds of good things.” Lucifer responded, “WHAT?!” The devil went on to say that he told the people to be kind and help others – the elderly, the poor and the immigrants. Lucifer said, “But you’re not supposed to tell them that kind of stuff. Are you crazy!?”
The devil responded by pointing at the large number of souls entering hell. Lucifer asked him how he did it. He responded, “I did it with only one word – LATER. I told them they could do all the good things I mentioned, later.” That one word allowed all the people to feel good about themselves while putting off until later all the good that they would do.
So dear parishioners of Holy Name of Mary, isn’t it wonderful that we have Mary and all the other saints to help us to follow Jesus, to keep us close and far away from the devil. Thanks be to God.