November 10, 2017

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Wisdom supplies the first reading for Mass on this weekend. The title itself of the book teaches a lesson.

As centuries passed, foreign influences virtually overwhelmed the Holy Land. Times perennially were hard. Understandably, many Jews left their ancestral homeland in search of better lives. They emigrated and settled in places where paganism prevailed.

Devoted Jews there found themselves required to explain and defend their ancient belief in the One God of Israel.

This book, among others, arose from this process. The title simply makes the point that acceptance of the God of Israel is the wise choice, a logical choice, not a leap into fantasy.

An interesting literary technique in this book is that wisdom is personified. Wisdom is described as if this human attribute were a person, moving through the world, being available to humans.

St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians provides the second reading. This epistle was sent long ago to the Christian community in Thessalonica, now the city of Saloniki in modern Greece. The presence of Christians in Thessalonica at that time shows that the Church had already moved beyond its geographic origins and was becoming a factor in Europe, not only in Asia.

Paul makes several important theological points in this reading. He first expressed the Christian belief that life endures after earthly death. Such a concept was not Hebrew in origin, at least not in its purest and more intellectually developed origins. It was an idea in Greek philosophy, but Christian thought contributed to this idea by insisting that eternal life was intimately connected with the reality of an individual person’s acceptance of, or rejection of, God in a person’s earthly existence.

Second, Paul drew the link between Christ and each Christian. He favored no theme more. It was fundamental. Christ lives forever. He overcame death. He rose. So Christians who earnestly accept the Lord must die to share in this victory over death. In this bond, they are destined to live forever.

St. Matthew’s Gospel is the source of the third reading. It is the familiar parable of the bridegroom and the foolish and wise virgins. Some commentators raise an interesting suggestion. Maybe the virgins, wise or otherwise, actually were symbols of disciples. While not Apostles according to any learned reading, women nonetheless were among the Lord’s disciples. Jesus also extolled virginity among followers.

Early Christians eagerly awaited the coming of Jesus. When Jesus would come in glory, persecuted Christians would be vindicated. Threatened in so many ways, frightened, they yearned for the Second Coming.

The parable teaches that indeed Christ will come again. Present times are passing. Eventually, hopefully soon, the Risen Lord will return in triumph, majesty and justice. Jesus will reign over all.

Reflection

It is never too late for any sinner to repent. Millions of people have turned from sin to virtue in the last moments of earthly life. The Church always is prepared to aid in such conversions. It lavishly allows priests to grant absolution from almost any sin at the hour of a person’s death.

Still, living separated from God, waiting for some wonderful last-minute spiritual rebirth, is no way to go.

So the Church, through Matthew, tells us this weekend to be prepared for whatever awaits us. We cannot predict. Live each day as a disciple. Be with Christ now, not just at the last minute.

Life for us can be daunting. Paul is clear. Hardships, disappointments, hurts and limitations will cease if we are faithful to Jesus. The weary toils and pains of earthly life will be overwhelmed by the glory of heaven.

Being with God alone is worthwhile. It alone makes life worth living. Death need not be an inevitable crisis, but a culmination of holy living. †

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