The call for wisdom

Proper 27, 8 November 2020

The theme of today’s Gospel is the Second Coming of Christ, in which He will judge humanity, the nations, and each of us.  The parable is a wedding-feast: the bridegroom is coming but is late.  This points to Christ: though we know assuredly He’s coming, the time is not in human knowledge and understanding but in the knowledge of God.  Even as we cannot control birth or death, Christ’s Second Coming is not in our control.

The parable of the ten virgins

God may delay His coming longer than we expect.  Like the virgins or bridesmaids, His disciples – the Church and His followers – must anticipate and be prepared for such a delay.  The foolish virgins were not adequately prepared; they had lamps – the life they’d received in Baptism – but not the oil to keep it burning.

The Second Coming of Christ and the final judgment are no mystery: everyone should know they’ll happen.  They’re mentioned in the Creed; at the Ascension, the angel said He will return in the same way He left.  It’s explicit and extremely clear that it will happen as God promised.  It must be expected, and because of this we’re called to live circumspectly, wisely and prudently, since we don’t know the time. 

The theme of Amos is the universal justice of God.  The Israelites expected the day of the Lord, and thought it would be a judgment against their enemies.  However, Amos reminded them that they also needed to be prepared so they wouldn’t be overtaken by it.  Micah said, you do all the religious things, but don’t forget love, mercy, righteousness and justice.  It sometimes seems in the world that those who make laws aren’t subject to them, and the Israelites were tempted to think those who believed in the God of Abraham were exempted from the judgment to come; but the opposite is true.  The great event that no one has seen will happen, whether or not people believe it, and whether or not they’re prepared.  The Church and every Christian should look forward to it, but we must be clothed with readiness.

  • The virgins represent the whole Church
  • Lamps represent the new life in Christ
  • Oil represents good works of love and compassion done from a pure heart
  • The wise are those who embrace the catholic faith and demonstrate it through good works

Saint Augustine said, “The lamps of the wise burn with good conscience, inner glory, and innermost charity and love; yet they tremble on the last day.  Who will be sure when we face the Judge?” The wise virgins take every opportunity to be prepared for Christ’s coming.  Not being so concerned about the things of the world, they live in watchfulness, always knowing in their hearts that Jesus will come to take the Church as His bride at the least expected time.  Let us consider what is coming and be prepared every day.

The foolish virgins ignore the opportunity to do works of compassion: they concentrate much of their time on present matters, the affairs of this passing world, intentionally ignoring and tossing behind them the coming of our Lord.  They’re unable to meet Christ, because they’re busy trying to catch up when it’s too late.  They run out of oil for their lamps and are unable to enter the wedding feast.  Humans have a tendency to live a foolish life.

What is wisdom?

In the Gospel we’re encouraged to become wise.   Without the fear of the Lord there’s no wisdom: Psalm 111:10 hints that a good understanding of His commandments – what He wants, what His will is, doing His commandments – is what makes one wise.  Godly wisdom is loving God and walking in His commandments.

Psalm 90:10-12 says we can expect 70 to 80 years of life here on earth.  However, it’s not the number of years that makes life full, but the quality of life, the wisdom.  To live to the fullest the life God has given us, and to spend our lives loving Him, obeying His commandments, making a difference in the world and leaving a legacy for the next generation – that’s wise living.  We’ll all pass away: what can we boast but labour and sorrow?  Our life is soon cut off, and everything we work for we’ll leave behind; therefore, let’s live wisely.  May this become a prayer for all of us.  Though there are challenges, we have the life of Christ: we can be fruitful and multiply as God has promised, and walk in love and peace.  Moses prayed, “Teach us to number our days” – so we can maximise our life here on earth for His glory and honour – “give us a heart of wisdom”.

It starts with the fear of the Lord – not terror and timidity, but reverence.  A slave must obey his master, otherwise he may receive punishment.  A child obeys his parents, not in fear of punishment, but in honour, respect or reverence.  God isn’t angry or waiting to punish humanity.  Children aren’t commanded to love their parents, but to honour them.  They may not love their parents, but they should honour, respect and revere them, and they’ll be blessed and live life to the full.

Let us be prepared

In the West there are four seasons.  According to traditional wisdom, people cut and dry wood in the summer, not winter – knowing that when winter comes it’s impossible to dry it – for fire to warm the house; otherwise they’ll freeze.

Let us harken to the Gospel: be prepared, be wise, seize every opportunity to live for Christ and make Him the centre of our lives.  Let’s be busy with acts of compassion, thinking of others, and as God’s instruments doing something to make a difference in their lives.  This alleviates us from the tendency to be self-absorbed.  May we not be tired of loving God, doing good, serving Jesus and waiting for Him.  May our hearts be filled with expectation to the point that we ask, Lord, when are You coming? – because we want, look forward and truly expect to see Him here on earth one day, face to face.

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