Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 6, 2011
Wisdom 6:12-16; Psalm 63; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13

          Jesus tells his friends the parable of the ten virgins who wait for the bridegroom so he can reveal to them something of the kingdom of heaven's nature and the judgment that precedes it. In the story, two sets of virgins act on their differing philosophies of life. Five remain vigilant in expectation that the bridegroom will soon come; the other five enjoy life fully in the present moment and are caught unprepared when they realize the groom had already come and they were not there to greet him. The faithful ones are welcomed and rewarded by the groom who turns away the others for attending to their foolish distractions.
          The parable reminds me of a childhood story that taught me to ponder the prudence of one choice of actions over and against another. At age 11, I saved my $2.00 monthly allowance for 14 months to buy a tape recorder (plus tax.) I worked hard for it and kept my eye on the prize while my older brother routinely squandered his monthly allotment. The evening I went to the store was special to me. I could not wait to get home to try out this new technology. After inserting the batteries and figuring out how it works, I went to show my parents, but they were not around. They immediately drove back to the store to buy one for my brother because his face was sad when he saw what I purchased after more than a year of planning and saving. I fumed at the injustice, but I held to my belief that my philosophy of life was the better route.

          I sought wisdom because it was not always evident in my brother's or parents' ways. From what I know of Jesus, I cannot imagine him turning away those five foolish virgins or my brother, and yet I still want to reconcile why it is reasonable to always do the morally good actions when the benefits are not always obvious. I also cannot be certain that my actions are like those of the wise virgins. They wait for him out of expectant love and often I wait out of justice. I have to remember that God does not always follow human logic or justice. God's wisdom remains far different from the wisdom I encounter.
          The key to my pondering is found in the Psalm. It is a loving, longing desire to be intimate with God. "You are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts," we cry with the psalmist. We seek God by pondering God's kindness and power. We seek Wisdom in the same way, but she helps us out. "She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire; whoever watches for her shall not be disappointed, for he shall find her sitting by his gate." She will free anyone from care who waits in vigil for her; she will graciously appear to those who she finds worthy of her.

          We need to seek wisdom in the confusing realities of daily life. We may not know which is the better path right away, but we will only find wisdom if we seek it. Wisdom does make itself known to us and we are to choose it when it comes upon us. We will be free of care and concern if we choose to lovingly do what is right and just. Justice without charity is legalism; we find this type of justice too often in our church and world. God's justice is surrounded by mercy. It can only do what is good and right.
          Just as we gaze upon God in the sanctuary, we can gaze upon Wisdom who will befriend us. She will help us choose prudentially and our right choice will be resplendent in imitation of her. We need to relax with life's daily demands. God longs to care for us and God sends wisdom to comfort us, guide us, and gives us hope. Our pursuit of wisdom will direct our paths of God. Wisdom will lead us to the one for whom our flesh pines. With a God like this, Jesus will come for those wise virgins and will rejoice with them; he will also come for the foolish ones who are perhaps in greater need of his welcoming acceptance. "In the end, all will be well. If all is not well, it is not the end."

Themes for this Week’s Masses
First Reading: Wisdom is a precious gift by God to those who will receive it. Wisdom is a kindly spirit and is the transparent witness of humans to God. It fills the world and is all-embracing. The souls of the just are in the hands of God and no torment shall touch them. They shall shine at their visitation and shall judge the nations because of their goodness and mercy. Wisdom is a spirit intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, agile, clear, unstained, certain, not baneful, loving the good, keep, unhampered, beneficent, kindly, firm, secure, tranquil, all-powerful, all-seeing, and pervading all spirits. Wisdom is the spotless mirror of the power of God, the image of God's goodness. In contrast, humans by nature have gone astray from God and they are distracted in their search for the divine. All their gifts alone cannot bring them to knowledge of God. Through Wisdom, creation is being made anew, serving its natural laws, and protecting God's children and leading them to deliverance.  

Gospel: Jesus laments the presence of sin, but declares woe to the one who causes sin to occur. We are to combat it all the more by forgiving our brother and relying upon the divine power of our faith. Jesus then teaches them humility by reminding them of their role as servants of God; they are to serve the Lord in gladness and to see themselves as unprofitable servants. When asked about the coming of the Kingdom, Jesus reminds them the kingdom of God is already among them because of his presence, but he will not always be among them in the near future. He teaches them about the last days on earth where one's belief will make them ready for eternal life. In an example, two women grinding meal together will see one taken up and the other left behind. Therefore, Jesus stresses the necessity to pray always without becoming weary. He gives an example of a distressed widow who meets an unjust judge who finally relents because of her perseverance. Justice is finally done to those who push forward.
Saints of the Week

Wednesday: The dedication of Rome's Lateran Basilica was done by Pope Sylvester I in 324 as the pope's local parish as the bishop of Rome. It was originally called the Most Holy Savior and was built on the property donated by the Laterani family. It is named John Lateran because the baptistry was named after St. John. Throughout the centuries, it was attacked by barbarians, suffered damage from earthquakes and fires, and provided residence for popes. In the 16th century, it went through Baroque renovations.
Thursday: Leo the Great, pope and doctor (d. 461) tried to bring peace to warring Roman factions that were leaving Gaul vulnerable to barbarian invasions. As pope, he tried to keep peace again - in particular during his meeting with Attila the Hun, whom he persuaded not to plunder Rome. However, in Attila's next attack three years later, Rome was leveled. Some of Leo's writings on the incarnation were influential in formulating doctrine at the Council of Chalcedon.

Friday: Martin of Tours, bishop (316-397), became an Roman soldier in Hungary because he was born into a military family. After he became a Christian, he left the army because he saw his faith in opposition to military service. He settled in Gaul and began its first monastery. He was proclaimed bishop in 371 and worked to spread the faith in at time of great uncertainty and conflict. He divided sections of his diocese into parishes.
Saturday: Josaphat, bishop and martyr (1580-1623) was a Ukranian who entered the Basilian order and was ordained in the Byzantine rite. He was named the archbishop of Polotsk, Russia and attempted to unite the Ukranian church with Rome. His opponents killed him. He is the first Eastern saint to be formally canonized.

This Week in Jesuit History

·         Nov 6, 1789. Fr. John Carroll of Maryland was appointed to be the first Bishop of Baltimore.
·         Nov 7, 1717. The death of Antonio Baldinucci, an itinerant preacher to the inhabitants of the Italian countryside near Rome.
·         Nov 8, 1769. In Spain, Charles III ordered all of the Society's goods to be sold and sent a peremptory demand to the newly-elected Pope Clement XIV to have the Society suppressed.
·         Nov 9, 1646. In England, Fr. Edmund Neville died after nine months imprisonment and ill-treatment. An heir to large estates in Westmoreland, he was educated in the English College and spent forty years working in England.
·         Nov 10, 1549. At Rome, the death of Paul III, to whom the Society owes its first constitution as a religious order.
·         Nov 11, 1676. In St James's Palace, London, Claude la Colombiere preached on All Saints.
·         Nov 12, 1919. Fr. General Ledochowski issued an instruction concerning the use of typewriters. He said that they could be allowed in offices but not in personal rooms, nor should they be carried from one house to another.