12 November 201732 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
32 Ordinary Time
Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A
Matthew 25:1-13

A Gallup poll revealed that 78% of Americans anticipate going to Heaven. Yet, many of them admit they never pray nor study the Scriptures nor go to church. They confess they only think of themselves. Why would God want them in His Heaven? If we don't like being a patsy, why should God be one? His Kingdom, says the monk, is a prepared place for a prepared people. Responsibility is a strength we must have. Our conduct today determines our future tomorrow with Christ. "It is not easy to be a Christian," advises a writer, "but it is easy to take the first step." A wedding in Palestine was an excuse for a super party. The people deserved it. Their lives were ones of toil from sunrise to sunset. The saying "Thank God It's Friday!" would mean nothing to them.

The bride and groom did not go away to Bermuda for a honeymoon. Rather, they stayed home and hosted the mother of all wedding receptions for seven days. It would be a joyful interlude in their difficult lives. The overworked townspeople felt there could not be too many weddings. All, even workaholics, love a few laughs and a chance to party. Now the disappointment of the five bridesmaids without oil can be understood. The bridegroom had arrived unexpectedly. They went searching for oil. The doors were locked. They were shut out from the wedding. Their wedding finery, bought on the lay-a-way plan at Wal Mart, was a waste. Also they would not be able to party hearty for a week. They were inconsolable. Some charge the five foolish bridesmaids were treated harshly. But they were not kids. They knew the rules. "If you can't afford the time," advise ex-cons, "don't commit the crime." The parable reflects Palestinian customs. Incidentally, the people of the East would not be enchanted by our wedding customs. A trendy New York magazine pictured an abundantly pregnant bride in a white maternity wedding gown on its glossy cover.

I was at a wedding reception where the elegantly dressed bridal party at the dais had a food fight with their guests. Newspaper wedding announcements regularly tell us the wedding couple already have two children together. Et cetera. The originality of Jesus is again revealed in the skill with which He takes ordinary customs about Him and weaves them into His parables. He is a storyteller par excellence. Tourists to European cathedrals will discover sculptures narrating this parable. The Nazarene is in the middle depicted as the bridegroom. Looking as though they have won a billion dollar lotto on His right are the five bridesmaids with oil. They represent those who have prepared for Christ. The foolish ones on the left are symbols for those who have not prepared. They hold their empty lamps upside down. They are losers all. It is this latter group to whom our attention is drawn. The wise say, "A door that is shut is not so easily opened." A similar thought is expressed in the words, "For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: it might have been." No wonder the Pharisees listening to Jesus were angry with Him.

He was telling them they were not prepared for Him. But the parable, which is ranked among the top ten of the Master, was spoken not merely to the Pharisees. It is addressed to us. There is never a time when it is safe to take a vacation from the Christian life. Think of the priest who dies in the bed of a prostitute in the riveting novel "True Confessions." He illustrated the warning of Albert Camus: "I shall tell you a great secret, my friend. Do not wait for the last judgment. It comes every day." It was impossible for the bridesmaids to buy oil late at night. Likewise, there are some things we cannot buy day or night.

To paraphrase William Barclay, we cannot purchase character and virtue from an ATM machine or a credit card; we must develop our own. We cannot live like leeches on someone else's union with God; we must work up our own. We must pay our dues up front. We must be ready for Christ when He comes knocking at the door for our already scheduled death. Jesus warns us today, "You know not the day nor the hour." "We must do long-range planning for the coming of Jesus at the end but just as important is short-range planning for Jesus' coming in the now and here." (Joseph Donders) Salvation we are told is free but not cheap. So make sure that what you are living for is worth dying for. If you say, "But God seems so distant, guess who moved.""
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
32 Ordinary Time
32nd Sunday: Using Time Wisely

I want to begin today by asking you to imagine that you are the main beneficiary of a distant relative's will. It seems this relative was quite eccentric as well as quite wealthy. A great deal of money is left for you to spend, but there are certain rules. Everyday for a year, your bank account would be credited with $86,400. If you wanted to spend any of this money, you had to produce bills showing why money was being withdrawn from your account. You could not save the money in another account. At the end of the banking day, whatever you did not spend would be removed from your account. The next day you would start with a fresh $86,400. I am sure that you and I would find some really creative things to do with the money. Now, let's return to reality. Every day we are given 86,400 seconds to make the best use of. Every night, God writes off as lost whatever portion of this time we have not used well or have wasted. In the bank of time, there are no balances and no overdrafts. Each day a new account is opened for us. Each night, what remains is written off, lost, gone forever.

Everyday's 86,400 seconds has to be invested wisely in commodities that will hold their value from day to day, quarter to quarter, year to year and beyond. Lasting values need to be found, values like justice, compassion, forgiveness, and love. There were five wise virgins and five foolish ones. The five foolish virgins squandered their time. The five wise virgins made the best use of every moment. The wise virgins entered into the banquet of the Master's love. The foolish virgins were too busy wasting time to be ready for their Master's return. How much time do you and I have left? We really don't know. Recently, we have had young members of our parish come down with sudden illnesses and die just a few months after the diagnosis. Others have been killed in accidents. In our American denial of death, we all like to think that sudden death happens to other people. There is no reason why it shouldn't happen to any of us. But it does.

The proper Christian attitude is not to deny death, but to prepare for it. This is the wisdom behind the five bridesmaids who were prepared to enter the wedding reception. They didn't know when the bridegroom was coming, but they were ready. So how do we prepare? Well, we have witnessed the crazies coming out in force with warnings of the end of the world only a few months away. Survivalists are preparing secret places where they hope to live for months or years after what they figure will be a devastating war. They are gathering supplies. Chances are good that in Pinellas and Pasco counties there will be a run on Ensure. (Sorry, I couldn't pass that up.) These methods are all wrong. You don't prepare for the end by doing a lot of stuff. You prepare by nurturing the proper disposition, the Christian attitude. Some of the most important words in scripture are two verses from Paul's Letter to the Romans: I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. "Be transformed by renewal of mind." Paul tells us to take an attitude of life that is completely different from the attitude of the world.

Throughout the Gospels, particularly in Matthew where today's gospel is taken, Jesus emphasizes the need for inner transformation. His complaints against the Pharisees, as we heard last week, was that they were hypocrites. They behaved one way, but were another way. He called them whiten sepulchers. On the outside, they looked nice and clean. On the inside they were rotten. The tax collectors and prostitutes who turned to Jesus transformed their lives. Their devotion to the Lord was a reflection of the Christian disposition they had taken on. So, how do we form and nourish the Christian attitude of life? On the negative, we cannot give ourselves over to that which destroys the presence of the Lord. We live in a materialistic society. To the vast majority of society success is counted in the amount of stuff a person has. Pleasure, even fleeting pleasure, is the goal of life. The glorification of sex is just one of the many ways that this is expressed.

We, you and I, have to fight against the forces outside of us and, particularly, within us that are drawing us into materialism and away from the Christian disposition of life. On the positive, we can form and nourish the Christian disposition by continually communication with the Lord. We need to pray daily. We all need a brief time when we are with the Lord and freed of the distractions of life. If we have a family, then we have the additional responsibility to pray as a family every day. We should focus our prayer lives on our Sundays. On Sunday we celebrate the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord and receive the Eucharist. That should be the main focus of our week. The presence of Christ within us in this sacrament gives us the strength to be who we claim to be, Christians. Today's first reading speaks about wisdom. Wisdom is a way of life. The wise are always ready for the Lord because they are always united to him. The gospel lesson is simple for this Sunday. Be like the wise virgins. Be ready to celebrate the banquet of the Lord love.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
32 Ordinary Time
How to Have Oil for Your Lamp (November 12, 2017)

Bottom line: Stewardship that flows from prayer puts oil in our lamps. In Fire Starters Bishop Sklba observes: "A New Testament parable is usually an instruction about how God works in our world, with its primary focus on God." Today's parable about the ten virgins in the wedding party teaches that God arrives at unexpected moments. He depends on our partnership and expects us to be prepared. That's what we are talking about this month: Our partnership with God, also known as co-responsibility or Stewardship. In terms of the parable Stewardship means having oil for our lamps. The oil represents readiness - using our resources for what matters most: being ready to meet the bridegroom, Jesus himself. And how do we get ready to meet Jesus?

If we pay close attention to the parable the answer is simple, perhaps so simple we miss it: prayer. After welcoming the wise virgins, he tells the foolish, "I do not know you." In the Bible knowledge implies intimacy. Adam knew his wife, Eve, and they conceived a son. (Gen 4:1) God wants to have an intimate relationship with us: soul, mind and body. For that reason he gives us sacraments - the water of baptism, the bread and wine of the Eucharist and the oil of Confirmation. Just as prayer involves soul, mind and body, Stewardship embraces all aspects of our lives: time, abilities and material resources.

Stewardship that flows from prayer puts oil in our lamps. The wise virgins cannot share with foolish ones because each person must purchase their own oil. You have talents that I do not have. Your time and your money belongs to you. Or to be more exact God has given time and financial resources for you to manage. To devote those resources to Jesus' Church and to needy brothers and sisters brings joy. As our Psalm says, "In the shadow of your wings I shout for joy." To witness to that experience of Stewardship I now ask you to give full attention to ____________
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
32 Ordinary Time
32nd Sunday of the Year,
Modern Lectionary 154

In November, as the leaves fall from the trees, as the days become shorter and darker, and as we observe All Souls Day and Veterans Day, it is only natural to think about things that are of abiding value: life itself, our faith, family members present and past, the self-sacrifice of our military veterans. The same movement is afoot in the readings we hear at mass in these days: as the rhythm of the Church year draws toward its conclusion the scriptures at mass lead us to reflect on the most fundamental matters of life, ultimately bringing us to a reflection on the mystery of death, judgment and eternal life.

To this end, this Sunday we are presented with an interesting series of readings that begin in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament. In the book of Wisdom, also called the Wisdom of Solomon, we find an exhortation to seek the gift of wisdom and to practice it faithfully. We hear: "wisdom…is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her.” Later the inspired author adds: "taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence, and whoever for her sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care” (Wis 6:12, 14-15).

First, this passage tells us that the sort of wisdom needed to make one's way through life is not out of reach for anyone—we have no excuse for failing to pursue it. Next it tells us that when we live according to the principles of wisdom we will be free from unnecessary concerns; that is, when a truly wise person faces life and its challenges they are filed with hope and are at peace. Though they "walk through the valley of the shadow of death, they fear no evil” (Ps 23:4).

The second reading, from Saint Paul's First Letter to the Thessalonians, continues this same theme. Since the Thessalonians like many early Christians expected Christ to return before the present generation had passed they were concerned that some of their loved ones had already died. Paul tells them not be shaken since whenever Christ returns both the living and the dead will share in the resurrection. A healthy dose of Paul's Christian wisdom and the hope that stems from it served to shore-up the Thessalonians' worried spirits. The reflection on wisdom and Christian life continues in the Gospel, in the account of the wise and the foolish virgins. Together with the parable of the talents which we will hear next Sunday, this passage serves as the preface to the powerful and frightening last judgement scene of Matthew's Gospel, which we will hear at mass in two weeks' time, on the feast of Christ the King.

The ten virgins, five wise and five foolish, are attendants at a wedding banquet, responsible to greet the groom when he arrives. When the groom arrives much later than expected and it is already evening, the five foolish virgins are left without enough oil for their lamps. The five virgins who brought extra oil represent those who have heard the call of the Lord to faith and who have responded in a wise manner, preparing themselves for the task at hand. Their prudence and foresight in bringing extra oil served them well, and is intended to be an admonition to all hearing the parable to imitate their alertness and wisdom. As we live out these pensive days of late autumn and look ahead to Advent, let us prepare ourselves by seeking the gift of wisdom so as to have no fear of death or judgement, and to live ever more joyfully the life we have at present, in firm hope of the life to come.
Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
32 Ordinary Time
Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

We are approaching the end of the liturgical year and the tone in the Gospel texts is stressing more and more that we must be ready and prepared for the second coming. The parable we are given today about the wise and foolish bridesmaids puts this need for preparedness quite starkly. One of the striking elements in the story is the refusal of the wise bridesmaids to share their oil with the foolish ones. First of all, we should note that it is not immediately obvious why these young women should need lamps. Why do they need them if they are merely going to a wedding banquet, it is not as if they are embarking on a long journey into the night.

But perhaps we ought to remember that this is a parable and therefore is not required to be strictly logical. It is a story which makes a point and, as with many other parables, what we might call the factual details are not considered to be important. A parable doesn’t have to be strictly logical or have to conform to actual practices or human customs. What we need to look at is what the elements of the parable represent. The lamps surely represent the light of faith which is fed not by oil but by prayer and good works. This is why the wise bridesmaids cannot share their oil. The fruits of prayer and good words are not able to be shared, they can only strengthen one’s own faith.

Of course, our own strong faith can support and sustain the faith of other people but what is being stressed here is the fact that each one is responsible for nurturing their own faith. The shops which sell oil are closed and so the foolish girls are unable to obtain fresh supplies and so lose the opportunity to attend the wedding banquet. This is another point of the parable; that the bridegroom comes only once and so we need to be very careful to be ready for his arrival. None of us knows the moment of our own death or when the second coming will be and so we need to be ready to meet the Lord at all times. The one thing we must not do is to lose the opportunity to meet the Lord and so miss our invitation into his Kingdom. The fact that the bridegroom does not come till after midnight also does not correspond to normal practice. No normal wedding would have a feast that began after midnight. This late arrival, of course, is to stress that Christ’s second coming may not occur for many centuries. Christ comes at a time of his own choosing and we are unable to predict when this will be.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses have put forward various predictions about when the end of the world will come. These have included the years 1878, 1881, 1914, 1918 and 1925. Then they predicted that Armageddon would come in 1975. Their leadership had to apologise when nothing dramatic happened. No one knows when Christ will return but what all Christians do know is that we need to be ready for when he does come or when our death occurs, whichever comes first. This is going to be one of the important themes of the Advent season which is just around the corner. Today is Remembrance Sunday when we call to mind all those who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars and in the many conflicts that have occurred since then.

Today after this mass we will cross the road to the Fire Station to keep the two minutes silence with the Fire Brigade. In 1940 an incendiary bomb landed on the Fire Station and six men were killed and a lot of the stained glass in our Church was blown out. It is appropriate that we remember those Fire Men but also all others, military and civilian, who have lost their lives in war. I was listening to a radio programme recently which spoke about a new type of war that is now widely prevalent. The old form of war was generally composed of set-piece battles and conducted by the armies of particular nation states. The new type of war that has grown up in the post-Cold War world is not based on countries or even ideologies.

Often, they arise as a result of religious or ethnic differences. These wars are frequently conducted by shadowy groups and not by the traditional nation states and they are often financed by means of drugs or other illegal activities. Terrorism is an important element and civilians are often the main target. We see examples of this type of war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and in Northern Nigeria. Whatever type of war goes on, always the consequences are devastating for ordinary people. And we should do everything we can to achieve peace. However, we recognise that with this new type of war it is very hard to negotiate treaties. It is not always clear where the centre of power lies with a particular group and because the motivation for war is often religious or ethnic those who engage in it are often extremely fanatical and not open to negotiation. New challenges are coming up all the time, so let us hope and pray that mankind will come to a good understanding of how to counteract these new forms of warfare and be successful in building up a more peaceful world.
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