Reading 1: Wisdom 2:12-16
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 63:2-8
Reading 2: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Gospel: Matthew 25:1-13
Go out to meet him!
We are a very impatient people, and the advantages of the electronic age have only exacerbated this. We have fast food, instant replay, and news bytes. We become irritated when we have to stand in line at a checkout counter, and we complain when a homily is more than ten minutes long. I know people who will drive around the block rather than wait for the traffic light to change. We just hate to wait!
As we approach the end of the liturgical year, we are reminded that the unfolding of time is in God’s hands. We can neither hurry it, nor thwart it. However, we must be prepared for its fulfillment, a fulfillment that is not only out of our hands but far beyond our comprehension. We say that we believe this. But do we really? Furthermore, just what is being fulfilled? The promises of God are being fulfilled. What are these promises? The Bible tells us that God promised the people a secure and prosperous future, the ultimate blessing of peace.
Well, it certainly doesn’t look like that promise is being fulfilled. We are undergoing a pandemic of unprecedented suffering and death, vicious division within and between political bodies, and violent riots on our streets. Where is the peace in this? Where are the happiness, the security, the fulfillment? It is at times like this that our trust and endurance are sorely tested.
Just what do today’s readings have to say to our suffering world? The first reading encourages us to seek Woman-Wisdom. This is surely always good advice. The reading also assures us that those who seek Woman-Wisdom will surely find her. However, as we struggle to keep our heads above the flood of desperation, seeking Woman-Wisdom might appear to be a luxury for those who simply want to survive. Paul seeks to provide comfort to those who grieve the death of loved ones while not understanding why they had to die in the first place. He argues that our beloved dead will be taken along with the risen Jesus to rest in God. Many will indeed find comfort in this teaching. Still, grieving those who have died in the past does not always shed light on what to do in the present. The gospel employs the metaphor of a full-blown, week-long marriage celebration. A picture of happy times. Strange as it might seem, this reading could be the one with the most challenging message for us today.
In ancient Israel, the long marriage ritual ended with the groom finally bringing the bride in procession into his home. The virgins or bridesmaids in the parable were part of this wedding procession. Since the groom was delayed, everyone had to wait, not knowing the time of his coming. All the bridesmaids were ready for his immediate arrival, but only half of them were prepared for a long wait. Here is the point of the parable. The time of the arrival of the groom was out of their hands. However, they had to be ready at any time.
As it was with the bridesmaids, the security and peace for which we yearn seem to be and often are beyond our reach. All we can do is wait for God’s good time. However, what are we doing as we wait? We may not be able to eradicate the virus, but are we, you and I, each doing everything we might to control its spread? We might feel helpless in the midst of such political turmoil, but does the language we use impugn the personal integrity and/or political positions of those who think differently? We defend the right to protest when there is injustice, but in what ways might the social structures that support injustice have afforded us privilege? We want security and peace, but do we work for them in the narrow confines of our own lives? What are we doing to make sure that we have what is needed when the groom finally comes? Do we realize that when we act courageously in very difficult situations such as these, we are not simply waiting for his arrival; we are actually making his kingdom present through our actions? It is at such times that hearing the cry, we eagerly arise to meet him.
Sr. Dianne Bergant, CSA
Carroll Stuhlmueller, CP Distinguished Professor Emerita of Old Testament Studies