Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 12, 2023 — Year A
Readings: Wis 6:12-16 / Ps 63 / 1 Thes 4:13-18 / Mt 25:1-13
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Today’s holy gospel is taken from a discourse about the end of the world and the final judgement. 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 judgement before the Lord.
There was a story about a sparrow who overheard from a squirrel up a tree that the sky was falling. Greatly disturbed by that news, the sparrow flew from its comfortable nest to spread the news. The cow, the dogs, the cats, and all the members of the animal kingdom were simply doubtful. They dismissed the sparrow’s tale as purely hearsay and therefore untrue. Finally, dejected and frustrated, and convinced that the animals would not cooperate, the sparrow lay on its back and started to raise its legs up toward the sky.
A wise man happened to be passing by and, seeing the creature in an unusual stance, inquired, “My little friend, what’s wrong with you?”
The sparrow replied, “Oh, dear sir, haven’t you heard that the sky is falling? I am here to support the weight of the sky, should it fall.”
The wise man could not help but smile and say, “But with your frail body, how could you possibly support the sky?”
“We do what we can. We do what we can,” said the sparrow.
Most of the time, we are like the dog, the cow, the cat, and the rest of the animals in the story, who are doubtful and do not want to respond to the needs and the signs of the times. When somebody tells us, “Let us go to Mass,” we would respond, “I don’t have any sin. Just go there and pray for me.” We don’t want to be disturbed. We want to be on our own. We are unconcerned and unresponsive when somebody needs our help. 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’s liturgical year, we concentrate on the end of things. That is why we consider if we are ready for the end of our lives, the end of the world, and the final judgement. Nature itself reminds us of the end of things. During the fall season, we see leaves fall from the trees, and it teaches us that someday 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’s instructing us today to 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.
We do not know too much about ancient marriages, but according to Joachim Jeremiah, in his book entitled The Parables of Jesus, published in 1972, one thing seems to be sure: The highlight of the marriage is the nocturnal entry of the bridegroom into the paternal house where the marriage takes place, followed by the festival banquet. The task of the bridegroom was to fetch the bride in her home, and then the procession would go to the house of the father of the groom. The task of the bridesmaids is to carry torches and light the way, and to give everything and everybody a very festive mood.
So now the question is: 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 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 lives. 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 baptismal candle. The celebrant, priest, or deacon, said to us, “Receive 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 as 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 receive 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 most powerful prayer that there is. In every Mass, Jesus offers Himself through us to the Father. By attending Mass regularly, we will grow and be holy. 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. 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.
Sometimes we ask, 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 would come back on the last day to judge the living and the dead. How and when will that 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 those wise virgins; the wise virgins who took 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.
So, in this holy Mass, let us beg Jesus to help us change our lives, so that we, too, will radiate the light of Christ in our world and be prepared for His coming.