Wednesday, November 2, 2011

All Souls Day - Sunday 32A, The Parable of Ten Bridesmaids: Five Foolish, Five Wise



o God, who willed that your Only Begotten Son, having conquered death, should pass over into the realm of heaven, grant, we pray, to your departed servants that, with the mortality of this life overcome, they may gaze eternally on you, their Creator and Redeemer. Through our Lord.

* * * * * *


32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year "A") – November 6, 2011

[Texts: Wisdom 6.12-16; Psalm 63; 1 Thessalonians 4.13-18; Matthew 25.1-13]

The gospel of Matthew is structured by five major addresses by Jesus (chapters 5-7, 10, 13, 18 and 24-25).  The last of these teaching units is sometimes referred to as the great apocalyptic teaching (in contrast to the “little apocalypse” found in Mark 13).

In this instruction, Jesus presents five parables that stress the need to be vigilant for his return in glory as the Son of Man. Two of these parables are presented in chapter 24; the remaining three parables of chapter 25 are the focus of the liturgy in the remaining three weeks of this liturgical year.

he parables in chapter 24 are very brief (only a verse or two in length) and stress vigilance.

The first is the parable of the fig tree whose budding leaves reveal that summer is near; just so, fulfilment of the predicted signs given by Jesus disclose to the attentive watcher that his arrival is soon (24.32).

The second parable notes, paradoxically, that the Son of Man's arrival will be sudden and unexpected, like the approach of a thief in the night who comes when the householder is off guard, though the homeowner would have kept watch if he had known when the thief was going to break in (24.43-44).

The three parables of chapter 25 are much longer and dramatically developed: today's gospel story of the ten bridesmaids, half of whom are foolish, the other half wise (25.1-13); next week's parable of three men entrusted with “talents”—large sums of money—which they are to trade with, and give an accounting of, at the master's return (25.14-30); and the great Last Judgment scene, which culminates Jesus' public ministry and in which the Son of Man—like a shepherd separating sheep from goats—will reward or punish people depending on whether they have served the needy or not (25.31-46).

All three parables focus on the activity for good that people are to engage in while vigilantly awaiting the Son of Man's return at the Parousia.  It is those who do nothing who are condemned in the closing verses of each parable: the foolish bridesmaids who are found without oil for their lamps when the bridegroom comes—after an unexpected delay—in the middle of the night; the lazy slave who did nothing with his talent except render it unproductive by burying it in the ground; those who did nothing to alleviate the distress of the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick and imprisoned, not recognizing that Jesus hides himself in them until his startling manifestation at the end of the world.

This Sunday's parable says that at the Parousia some of Jesus' disciples will be discovered to be unwise, like the five foolish bridesmaids, while others will be recognized as sensible, like the five wise bridesmaids.  The bridegroom coming to the wedding feast is Christ; though no bride is mentioned in the parable, tradition describes the Church as the bride of Christ (cf. Ephesians 5.29-32).

Several weeks ago (on the 29th Sunday), a parable suggested that God, the host of his Son's wedding banquet, was embarrassed by someone in the banquet hall who had not donned a wedding garment.  We noted that in early Christianity a believer's new identity—through conversion—was symbolized by the putting on of new clothing.  Thus, the guest's refusal to put on a wedding garment symbolized rejection of the change of life implicit in accepting God's wedding feast invitation proclaimed by Jesus.

The foolish bridesmaids' lack of oil for their lamps represents a similar refusal to let the commitment to attend God's end-time banquet affect one's behaviour, witnessing to conversion by good deeds.

Like personified Wisdom, lauded by Sirach, God never stops seeking out people at their very doorways (“she hastens to make herself known... and she graciously appears to them in their paths”).  But God's wisdom needs to be accepted. People need to commit themselves to becoming wise (“she is easily discerned by those who love her, and is found by those who seek her”).

It seems strange that those confessing Jesus could find themselves rejected by him (“Truly, I tell you, I do not know you”).  That is why such end-time parables, proclaimed by Jesus for a time in the Church when “the love of many will grow cold” (24.12), still speak to Christ's disciples today.

* * * * * *


On Sunday, I ventured to the farthest western reaches of the Archdiocese to preside at the formal installation of Father Michael Ruddick as pastor of the parishes of St. Michael's, Fitzroy Harbour and St. Gabriel's, Constance Bay

Today, pictures of the ceremony and reception at "the Harbour", tomorrow: photos of the ceremony and reception at "the Bay":

At the right: Father David Bellusci, O.P., who teaches at Dominican University College

No comments:

Post a Comment