32nd Sunday of Ordinary time (12 November 2017)

Wisdom 6:12-16; 1 Thess 4:13-18; Matt 25:1-13

The readings this week invite us to adopt an entirely different perspective towards the question of what really matters in our lives. We tend to be preoccupied with the things of this world. But the readings teach us that this world is transient and that our focus should be on the eternity that awaits us at the end of our time here.
The first reading personifies wisdom. Wisdom in the Bible is often a reference to the Holy Spirit. And in the biblical sense, wisdom denotes the understanding of God’s supremacy and His Kingship in every aspect of creation. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom – Prov 1:7. Once we understand this, the first reading becomes clearer. It teaches that the blessings that wisdom brings is for ever since it is bright and will never go dim; the spirit of wisdom is readily found by those who seek it sincerely, and because God knows our hearts, He will make Himself known to us. When we have wisdom, we will live in peace and be spared of anxiety. The central message of the reading is to urge us to turn our attention towards God. We should be seeking Him and when we do so, every blessing will be ours. This is the truth. If we choose to be preoccupied with the things of this world, we will have neither peace nor lasting happiness. The choice of what will be central in our lives is ours to make.
The second reading develops the same theme in the context of the physical boundaries of life, as we understand it. St Paul was addressing the question of whether life ends when we die physically. It is central to our faith that death was never God’s plan and that it only entered creation because of Adam’s sin: the wages of sin are death – Rom 6:23. But is there no way of escape from death’s clutches? Of course there is. Otherwise Jesus’ death on the Cross would be futile. It is central to our faith that in fact, because of the death and resurrection of Our Lord, we are liberated and that as with Jesus, death has no power over us. If we truly believe this, then as Paul notes, there is no cause to grieve when a loved one succumbs to a physical death because death is no longer a terminal point but a journey that takes us from this life to the eternal one with God. Of course separation may grieve us but this is quite different from grieving at the prospect of never seeing a loved one again.
In the Gospel, Jesus challenges to think about what we keep our eyes on as we journey through this life. Do we keep them on the physical temptations and attractions of this life or do we plant them firmly on Jesus? The parable of the maids with the lamps illustrates this. All of them started off on the same footing – but only some were firmly focused on the purpose for which they were there, namely to welcome the bridegroom. Because of this, they had all the things they needed and they concentrated on keeping themselves ready for the groom’s arrival. But the others were focused on unimportant things as a result of which they were woefully unprepared for the groom when he came. The central question for us, is what are we here for and what are we focused on? Is it God’s coming or is it something else?
Each of the readings challenges us to reflect on what is really important in our lives. This should be Jesus. But for many of us, a life full of worries, ambitions and the pursuit of success leaves us little time to prepare for the day when we will meet God.
Some points for reflection as you read the passages:

  1. What do you understand from the common use of the word “wisdom”? How might this differ from its scriptural sense? Which type of wisdom do you seek?
  2. Why is it so difficult for us to approach death with the equanimity that Paul urges? To what extent do you believe that death is a beginning and not an end
  3. What are some of the things that distract you from focusing on God? Why is it wrong to defer the time when God will be the central preoccupation in your life?