32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A
Sunday Church at Home
during lockdown in the Coronavirus Pandemic
The Church Waits for the Coming of the Lord.
The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:
Leader: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
All reply: Amen
Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
All reply: Blessed be God for ever
Leader: The time is now. God lives in the present, inviting us to fullness of life. Conversion, commitment and salvation are in the here and now, not in some vague future, or when we get round to it. Compassion is the hallmark of the true follower of Jesus
LITURGY OF THE WORD
First Reading: Wisdom 6:12-16
Introduction to the reading: The book of Wisdom was written by a teacher who lived in Alexandria, Egypt, a centre for Greek philosophy in the ancient world. Fearful that the Jewish people might be captivated by this secular thought, the author contrasts it with the true wisdom of God. In today’s passage, wisdom is personified as a woman.
A reading from the Book of Wisdom
Wisdom is radiant and unfading,
and she is easily discerned by those who love her,
and is found by those who seek her.
She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her.
He who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty,
for he will find her sitting at his gates.
To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding,
and he who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care,
because she goes about seeking those worthy of her,
and she graciously appears to them in their paths,
and meets them in every thought.
The word of the Lord.
Responsorial psalm: Psalm 63:2.3-4.5-6.7-8
R/: For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord, my God.
O God, you are my God; at dawn I seek you;
for you my soul is thirsting.
For you my flesh is pining,
like a dry, weary land without water.
I have come before you in the sanctuary,
to behold your strength and your glory.
Your loving mercy is better than life;
my lips will speak your praise.
I will bless you all my life;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul shall be filled as with a banquet;
with joyful lips, my mouth shall praise you.
When I remember you upon my bed,
I muse on you through the watches of the night.
For you have been my strength;
in the shadow of your wings I rejoice.
R/: For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord, my God
Second reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Introduction to the reading: Paul wrote his first letter to the Thessalonians some 20 years before any of the Gospels were written. In the passage we’re about to hear, we have the earliest written teaching about the resurrection. Some of the Thessalonians were worried about those who had already died. They expected the second coming of Christ very soon, and were concerned that those who had died would miss out on the resurrection.
A reading from the first letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians
We would not have you ignorant, brothers and sisters,
concerning those who are asleep,
that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.
For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again,
even so, through Jesus,
God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord,
that we who are alive,
who are left until the coming of the Lord,
shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven
with a cry of command,
with the archangel’s call,
and with the sound of the trumpet of God.
And the dead in Christ will rise first;
then we who are alive, who are left,
shall be caught up together with them in the clouds
to meet the Lord in the air;
and so we shall always be with the Lord.
Therefore, comfort one another with these words.
The Word of the Lord.
Watch, therefore, and be ready; the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
Gospel: Matthew 25:1-13
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
At that time: Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens
who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.
For when the foolish took their lamps,
they took no oil with them;
but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.
As the bridegroom was delayed,
they all slumbered and slept.
But at midnight there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’
Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps.
And the foolish said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise replied,
‘Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you;
go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’
And while they went to buy,
the bridegroom came,
and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast;
and the door was shut.
Afterward the other maidens came also, saying,
‘Lord, lord, open to us.’
But he replied, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Reflection on the Readings
The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.
A mother shared this story: One day when she was heading up the stairs with a basket containing the last load of folded clothes. She was herding her three little ones in front of her for bedtime. Her eldest child, Lily, who was then in grade 1, picked that moment to begin one of those questions that seem to intrigue all children at some time. “Mommy,” she asked, “If it were the end of the world, and everyone was getting ready to die…” The mother stopped, shifted the basket on her hip, and said an ultra-quick prayer for wisdom to answer this question. “Yes?” The mother prodded her daughter. The little girl finished her theological inquiry: “If the end of the world came, would you have to take your library books back?”
That young lady did not want any unfinished business in her life.
We know we are coming close to Advent when the liturgy gets us to think about judgement and the end time. We are invited to think, not only of our final end in death, but about all the endings we experience through our lives – and these days there are more than the usual reasons for grief.
We are encouraged to reflect on what is permanent and sure in our lives and at the same time we reflect on what is passing, what is not worth the investment of our precious energies. These days the themes of death and limits are underlined and marked with exclamation points by the pandemic! We need to ask ourselves: What’s the focus of our lives? What can be taken away from us? What will accompany and sustain us through life’s twists and sudden turns these faith-testing days?
Let us turn to the book of Wisdom. The author of the Book of Wisdom reminds us that one unfailing presence and guide for believers is Wisdom. “Wisdom is … easily discerned by those who love her, and is found by those who seek her”. Wisdom does not just fall into our laps. We need to actively seek wisdom.
Wisdom is “radiant and unfading” – It is easy to put our confidence into stuff – the possessions I have. The things I have will pass away. There will be another edition of my smartphone. There will be anew technology and the one I have becomes useless. But wisdom is unfading. When life takes one of those twists on us, what have we to fall back on; what in our lives is “radiant and unfading” and can guide us through both the joys and the sorrows?
My natural reaction is to write an email and invite Wisdom to come and make her home with me. Sadly, I don’t think that will work 😊.
We are encouraged to do is watch and keep vigil for Wisdom, for she will meet us “in every thought.” I love the idea that all who seek Wisdom shall find her, shall receive this gift of God. What is required is a sincere and seeking heart. We seek Wisdom through prayer, study, reading , reflection and working to understand who I am as a person. In the first book of Kings 3:9, we are told that Wisdom gives the seeker, “an understanding heart to judge and distinguish right from wrong” (1 Kings 3:9).
In Wisdom chapter 7 (22-27) we discover that when all else is passing, Wisdom will guide us to what never fades, for she is a breath of the power of God, all powerful and unchanging (Wis 7: 22-27). Wisdom is a breath of the power of God. Just to begin the search for Wisdom, is to be found by Wisdom. It is more gift than effort. The effort comes in living a life faithful to the path Wisdom has shown us.
For a Christian, Jesus is God’s Wisdom personified. When we seek Jesus, we want to find the light that is “radiant and unfading.” Today’s we want to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn wisdom from him, we want to become wise in God’s ways and we do not want to be deceived by things which pass away.
As we enter into the parable of the ten maidens, we meet customs from another world and another time. The bride and her attendants customarily waited at home for the arrival of the groom and his party. Why might the groom be delayed? According to the custom, the groom would be negotiating for the bride with her father and family. The bartering could go on well into the night, even for days. Bartering at great length was considered a compliment and a sign that the bride was indeed treasured and priceless. When both sides came to an agreement the groom and his family attendants would arrive to take the bride to his home. Once there, the wedding feast would begin. And what a feast it would be, lasting for a week, or more!
Jesus uses this slice from life as an illustration of his sudden return and the final and complete declaration of God’s reign. We know the moment of reckoning is coming, but it is so easy to be like the five foolish maidens and become distracted and unprepared for the crucial moment of need.
Look at the end of the parable for the five foolish maidens. It is most abrupt and final, “Then the door was shut.”
I can imagine a massive wooden door swinging closed, and then a beam of wood slotting in to hold it fast. No intruders would be able to get through! What was once open and inviting to feasters – now is locked. It reminds me of the crashing sound prison gates make when they are closed behind you. But this is no prison; those on the inside have an end to their long wait, they now enter into a festival. Those outside are forever outside.
What an opportunity they missed by squandering their time and not getting the required “oil.” How dull-witted they turned out to be. Had they been productive during the groom’s delay, had they seen what was expected and required of them, and acted on it, they would not have ended in such dire circumstances.
During this week, we have seen an increase in the number of infections and deaths due to the pandemic. The parable of the ten maidens points to a moment, not just at the end time, but to now. It calls us to seize the moment and direct our lives guided by the wisdom God gives us in Christ. We do not yet see Christ coming. What we experience are the multitude of endings caused by the virus.
There are the: much-changed routines of work, on-line schooling, crammed schedules, accustomed activities on hold, fatigue from endless Zoom meetings, depressing daily news, worry and impatience for a vaccine, etc. How are we doing, how shall we respond? It depends on how well we have tended to our “oil” supply. If we have squandered it with neglect, or missed opportunities, then when we look for a backup in a moment of crisis, we may be left with the sound of the slamming and bolted door. It’s too late.
But it’s not, you know.
The parable’s bolted door hasn’t happened yet. Jesus reminds us now that we still have time. God is available to us now with the gift of Wisdom, to show us what we must still do to keep a good supply of oil. “Wisdom hastens to make herself known to those who desire her.” We acknowledge our need and dependence on God. We yearn and search for Wisdom – it is given to us in these scriptures and in the food prepared at this table set before us.
[Jesus said to his disciples]
“Therefore, stay awake,
For you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Our daily routine can be shattered by the unexpected and sudden demands life puts on us and our loved ones. Will we be ready to respond? It depends on how well we have tended to our “oil” supply.
So we ask ourselves:
- What helps me “stay awake” and alert to God’s entrance into my daily life?
- Is there a practice of prayer, or reflection, I can adopt to help me better respond each day during this pandemic to Christ?
Prayer of the Faithful
Leader: As members of Christ’s body, called to be salt for the earth and light of the world, we bring before our loving Creator the needs of the Church and of God’s suffering people.
We pray for the Church: (pause) that having taken the Word of God to heart, we may have a spirit of readiness so that we can respond to God’s presence and invitations at any moment.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for the gift of Wisdom: (pause) that God will give us insight and understanding through our daily experiences so that we may value and nurture those things that will sustain us into eternal life.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for the leaders of South Africa: (pause) that they may fulfill their duties with integrity and work untiringly to address the crucial issues of our society.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for all medical staff and researchers in this coronavirus pandemic: (pause)
that God’s healing Spirit will guide them in their work of healing and developing a vaccine.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for all students writing exams: (pause)
may their dedication and hard work provide good results.
LORD HEAR US.
We pray for members of our families and friends who have died and those whose anniversaries occur about this time, especially for all the faithful departed on the Pious Lists.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for Edgar Michels who died this week.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace. AMEN
Leader: Let us pray to overcome indifference:
All too often, Lord,
we turn away from the world’s many problems,
which seem too big, too complex, or too far away.
Forgive us our indifference.
It is easier, Lord, to see only what is around us:
our lives, our homes, our challenges.
Forgive us our isolation.
Help us to see with your eyes:
eyes which notice one another
and help us understand.
Help us to dream your dream:
of communities that reach out and dialogue
and where diverse people creatively cooperate.
Help us to be people of solidarity and action,
so moved by prayer, encounter, and understanding
that peace can become a reality.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.
By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.
I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment,
feed my soul at least spiritually.
I unite myself to you now as I do when I actually receive you.
Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:
All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Leader: Brighten your Church, O God,
with the promise of your kingdom
and waken our hearts to its light.
Bid us hasten with faith undimmed
to greet the bridegroom’s return
and to enter the wedding feast.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
A leader who is a layperson, using no gesture, says:
Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.