"FIRST IMPRESSIONS "
32nd ORDINARY TIME(A) November 12, 2017
Wisdom 6: 12-16; Psalm 63; 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18; Matthew 25: 1-13
by Jude Siciliano, OP
Just a reminder to those who receive these reflections directly by email. If an edition should fail to arrive, you can go to our webpage and find it there:
In parts of the country, especially in the warmer South, trees are still ablaze with autumn fire. It is a spectacular show! For many of us, this season of nature’s pyrotechnics is our favorite. The harsh cold of winter has not yet arrived; the cruel winds have not yet blown those leaves from the trees. The golden sunlight at the end of each day only enhances the brilliance of the multi-colored leaves. The last rays of the sun also set a quiet mood to the ends of the days. We try to get out for at least a brief walk through the Technicolor scene that marks these days.
But we know something else at this time. What is so glorious in nature is also dying. The color of the leaves means they are dying on their branches – soon they will fall to the ground, be raked from lawns and play grounds and carted off. Winter is surely coming, the end of the year. The elderly and infirmed especially dread this season in the North, for it means more confinement in the house, long days of waiting for the frost and ice to pass, so that they can get out again and not be confined by the rough elements.
The liturgical season parallels what’s going on in nature. The liturgical year is coming to an end, these last three weeks before Advent shift our thoughts and prayers to the end time. We are encouraged to think not only of our final end in death, but about all the endings we experience in life. The scripture readings these last weeks encourage us to reflect on what is permanent and sure in our lives and what is passing – not worth the investment of our precious energies. What’s the focus of our lives? What can be taken away? What do we have that will accompany us and sustain us through life’s twists and sudden turns?
The author of the Book of Wisdom reminds us that we have one unfailing presence to guide us through life – Wisdom. She is "resplendent and unfading;" while so much we humans put our confidence in pales and passes away. When life takes one of those winter twists on us and the news is not good – what have we to fall back on, what in our lives is "resplendent and unfading" and can guide us in the cold and dark?
We might respond to this first reading today at the Eucharist by inviting Wisdom to come and make her home with us. We are encouraged to watch and keep vigil for Wisdom, for she will meet us "with all solicitude." The reading suggests that all who seek Wisdom shall find her, shall receive this gift of God. What is required is a sincere and seeking heart. Elsewhere in the scriptures we are told that Wisdom gives the seeker, "an understanding heart to judge and distinguish right from wrong" (1 Kings 3:9). Whereas all else is passing, Wisdom will guide us to what never fades, for she is like God, all powerful and unchanging (7: 22-27). Today’s reading suggests that even to begin the search, is to be found by Wisdom. It is more gift than effort. The effort comes in living a life faithful to the path Wisdom has shown us.
For the Christian, Jesus is God’s Wisdom personified. Those who seek him in their daily lives find the light that is "resplendent and unfading." In the gospel today we sit at his feet and learn wisdom from him so that we might become wise in God’s ways, not deceived by what is initially alluring – but transitory.
As we enter today’s parable, we meet customs from another world and another time. The bride and her attendants customarily waited at home for the arrival of the groom and his party. Why might the groom be delayed? According to the custom of the time, the groom would be negotiating for the bride with her father and family. Patricia Sanchez [THE WORD WE CELEBRATE: YEAR A] says that the bartering could go on well into the night, even for days. "Bartering at great length was considered a compliment and a sign that the bride was indeed treasured and priceless" (page 105). Finally, the groom and his family attendants would arrive to take the bride to his home. Once there, the wedding feast would begin. And what a feast it would be, lasting for a week, or more! No wonder Jesus could use this slice from every day life as an illustration of his sudden return and the final and complete declaration of God’s reign. Though we know the moment of reckoning is coming, we can easily become distracted and unprepared.
I find the closing line of the parable most abrupt and final, "Then the door was locked." Not just closed, but locked! What was once open and inviting to feasters – now is locked. You can hear the slamming of the door, the bolt’s clicking into place. Reminds me of the crashing sound prison gates make when they are closed behind you. But this is no prison; those on the inside have an end to their long wait and anticipation. Here they enter into a festival. Those outside are forever outside. What an opportunity they missed by squandering their time and not getting the required "oil." How dull-witted they turned out to be. Had they been productive during the groom’s delay, had they seen to what was expected and required of them, they would not have ended in such dire circumstances.
At this writing, a friend calls and tells me that the 45 year old son of her neighbor and dear friend has dropped dead while jogging. He leaves his wife, two small children and his grieving family and friends behind. An athletic person never expects that an autumn afternoon’s run will be the last thing they do in life. One hopes his lamp was trimmed and he had a good supply of oil; that he wasn’t putting off the word he should have spoken in love to some and forgiveness to others. One hopes the he had chosen wisely in his life; that those who knew him well, or briefly, had experienced gestures of compassion from him; that he was there with a helping hand for a friend, food for the hungry, water for the thirsty, welcome for the stranger, clothing for the naked and visits for those ill, or in prison. (In the final gospel of these three weeks, on the feast of Christ the King, we are told that these will be the expected forms of behavior of those judged by the Son of Man.)
Today’s parable points to a moment, not just at the end time, but now. It calls us to seize the moment and direct our lives guided by the wisdom God gives us in Christ. We do not yet see Christ coming. What we experience is the preoccupying routines of work, school schedules and activities, rushed family meals, television, the news on the car radio, shopping, visiting elderly parents, friends and family, church services, etc. It can feel so predictable. But the routine can also be shattered by the unexpected and sudden demands life puts on us and our loved ones. Will we be ready to respond? It depends on how well we have tended to our "oil" supply. If we have squandered it with neglect, or missed opportunities, then when we look for a backup in a moment of crisis, we may be left with the sound of the slamming and locked door. It’s too late.
But it’s not too late, you know. The parable’s locked door hasn’t happened yet. Jesus reminds us now that we still have time. God is available to us now with the gift of Wisdom, to show us what we must still do to keep a good supply of oil. "She [Wisdom] hastens to make herself known." At this Eucharist we acknowledge our need and dependence on God. We yearn and search for Wisdom – it is given to us in these scriptures and in the food prepared at this table set before us.
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/111217.cfm
Preaching is the awakening and making explicit of what is already there in the depths of a person, not by nature, but by grace.
JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD
Resplendent and unfading is
wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those
who seek her.
Sometimes I think that people today do not seek after wisdom as much as they did in the past. For Christians seeking wisdom, one must read the signs of the times, be open to various opinions, ponder informed views, and then discern the best path, one that Jesus would have taken.
For instance, this week (Nov. 11-17) is National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week. It is held each year the week before Thanksgiving. In seeking wisdom for the problem of hunger and homelessness, this is a time to question why we have hungry and homeless people in our midst, then, share our compassion, and work toward a world where no one has to experience hunger or homelessness. The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) is a national social movement whose aim is to eradicate homelessness by solving the root causes of it. For this year’s Week, NCH writes, "As homelessness becomes worse, localities have sought to criminalize life-sustaining activities in public spaces. By making it illegal to share food in public spaces or lie down in parks, and even constructing spikes to keep homeless people from resting, our society refuses to let humans carry on life in public spaces. This only makes issues of homelessness worse and more costly for governments and taxpayers." Wisdom says: "Being hungry and/or homeless is not a crime!"
Let us begin our journey to create a world free of hunger and homelessness with these words from Pope Francis:" Let us not forget that the Our Father is the prayer of the poor. Our asking for bread expresses our entrustment to God for our basic needs in life. Everything that Jesus taught us in this prayer expresses and brings together the cry of all who suffer from life’s uncertainties and the lack of what they need. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he answered in the words with which the poor speak to our one Father, in whom all acknowledge themselves as brothers and sisters. The Our Father is a prayer said in the plural: the bread for which we ask is "ours", and that entails sharing, participation and joint responsibility." (6/13/17).
To help with hunger and housing ministries at our parish, check outwww.raleighcathedral.org >parish > social justice
----Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS
Director of Social Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
[Jesus said to his disciples]
"Therefore, stay awake,
For you know neither the day nor the hour."
Our daily routine can be shattered by the unexpected and sudden demands life puts on us and our loved ones. Will we be ready to respond? It depends on how well we have tended to our "oil" supply.
So we ask ourselves:
POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES
"One has to strongly affirm that
condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal
dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285
For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/
"First Impressions"is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at email@example.com.
If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert Priory 3150 Vince Hagan Drive Irving, Texas 75062-4736
Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage to make an online donation:http://www.PreacherExchange.com/donations.htm
1.We have compiled Four CDS for sale:
If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.
You can order the CDs by going to our webpage:www.PreacherExchange.com and clicking on the "First Impressions" CD link on the left.
2. "Homilías Dominicales" —These Spanish reflections on the Sunday and daily scriptures are written by Dominican sisters and friars. If you or a friend would like to receive these reflections drop a note to fr. John Boll, O.P. at Jboll@opsouth.org.
3. Our webpage: http://www.PreacherExchange.com/ - Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilías Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.
4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.
Thank you and blessings on your preaching,
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas
3150 Vince Hagan Drive
Irving, Texas 75062-4736