Sunday, 6 November 2011

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Some thoughts and questions

In these final weeks of the Church year we are faced with some important lessons. The readings in these final weeks come in the form of ‘eschatological literature’. Eschatology has to do with the end times, the very end times, the end of the world. We know that this will happen, we just don’t want to be around when it does! Another word that is used in this area of theology is ‘paranetic’. Paranetic means being prepared for the unexpected. We do not know what is around the corner. We do not know what a new day will bring, so we must be as prepared as possible for all eventualities.  Within the tension that this discussion brings is hope. The hope that God cares for and cherishes his people.

If we reduce these ideas to their most basic form we would be left with a simple statement like. ‘Live today a if it were your last.” We are called as Christian people to live our lives with intensity and deliberation.

In our first reading (Book of Wisdom, Chapter 6, Verses 12-16) we hear of Wisdom as a person. Lady Wisdom is seeking out those who desire her. These questions might help us open up these readings to our own experience and hungers.

1. In this reading people are looking for Wisdom at the same time that Wisdom is searching for them. What does your “wanting wisdom” do for your “receiving wisdom”? Explain the following line from the reading: “…whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed, for he shall find her sitting by his gate.”

2. Consider and discuss the following statement by theologian and liturgical writer, Aelred Rosser: “Wisdom is that elusive attribute that enables us to see beyond the surface of things into their depths, to see as God sees, and therefore to see God.”

What I find interesting in this passage is that the wise week wisdom, and wisdom seeks the wise. Wisdom is not something , but someone with whom we enter into a relationship.

In our second reading  from the First Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, Chapter 4, Verses 13-18  Paul is caught up in this end time theme. His expectation is drenched with the hope and promise that Jesus has made to us. We were created for life – eternal life. But, are we ready for this? Are we living with that expectation.

1. Would you live differently if you thought the “end time” was right around the corner as the Thessalonians did? What would change?

2. Those who are alive will be caught up together with Christ and with those who have died. Does the fact that we are going to be “caught up” as a people or as a community in Christ have any implications for you now?

Finally our Gospel, Matthew, Chapter 25, Verses 1-13. This is the story of the bridesmaids. The weeding feast was one of the most important events in the life of a community. It was a real gathering of the community. It was a time of being together, of being one with each other. It was also full of ritual and convention. The bride had chosen ten young, unmarried women to be her bridesmaids. In the story, the bride awaits the arrival of her bridegroom in her home. Her friends, acting as bridesmaids are to meet the bridegroom when he comes with his friends to collect his bride and take her to his home. This is a moment of festival and celebration. The groom comes in the night and his path is lit by those carrying lamps. All have lamps and oil, but some have underestimated the time of waiting and expectation. When the groom finally appears the lamps have burnt dry and they have no light. The wisdom of the five wise bridesmaids consisted in doing what was expected of them, in being prepared for the arrival of the groom. It was practical wisdom. Maybe these questions can help us mine the depths of this passage for ourselves.

1. Jesus’ parable is about being watchful and well prepared. How can you do this yourself? Is the “Be watchful” assignment just for people over a certain age, or people who have gotten bad news from their doctors?

2. When you watch for God in your life do you sometimes “doze off”? What kinds of things cause you to to lose interest or stop “watching”? What exactly are you watching for? How does this reading relate to the First Reading about Wisdom?

All this reflection about wisdom can be seen in one simple story. A holy old monk was sweeping up the fallen leaves in the monastery garden when a visitor asked him: ‘What would you do, brother, if you knew you were going to die in twn minutes.’ The old monk replied: ‘I’d carry on sweeping.’ He was ready.

[i] From Centre for Sunday Liturgy Website:
[ii] ibid
[iii] Ibid

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