"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
November 6, 2011: 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
• Wisdom 6:12-16
Synopsis: As the liturgical year comes to an end the readings begin to focus on the “last things” (death, judgment, heaven and hell). The book of Wisdom, from which our first reading is taken, begins by contrasting the wicked and the just, the foolish and the wise (the subject of this week’s Gospel). The wicked don’t believe in God or judgment or heaven or hell. When life is over, it’s over. “Hereafter we shall be as though we had never been born,” they say.
In contrast, the “souls of the righteous are in the hand of God” and so their “hope is full of immortality” (Wis 3:1, 4). Those who attend to wisdom and justice, therefore, hold the key to heaven. With that in mind, the first reading urges us to earnestly seek wisdom.
The second reading also speaks of last things when Paul says, “The Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven.” In the early days of the Church many Christians believed that the second coming of the Lord was imminent. When some died, people wondered: “Where is he? What shall become of our loved ones?” Paul assures them that as Jesus died and rose again, so their loved ones will rise again at the last day.
The parable of the wise and foolish virgins in this week’s Gospel is not so much about vigilance but about foresight and prudence (all 10 virgins, after all, fell asleep while waiting). The difference between them is that one group had the good sense to carry extra oil, while the others didn’t. The “oil” here serves the same purpose as the talents in the parable that follows and the deeds of the righteous in the parable of the sheep and goats that closes out the chapter.
Key Verse: “But the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps” (Mt 25:4).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “When he comes at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, the glorious Christ will reveal the secret disposition of hearts and will render to each man according to his works and according to his acceptance or refusal of grace” (No. 682).
Pope Benedict XVI: “We should become newly conscious of our own vocation to eternal life, living in such a way that we can one day stand before the judgment seat of God with this present life of ours” (“Values in a Time of Upheaval”).
Life application: The point of this week’s readings is that we must be ready for the Lord by building up our spiritual “bank account.” The “oil” in this week’s Gospel symbolizes those things that will ultimately count at the end of life: love and mercy and the qualities that Jesus praises in the Sermon on the Mount. Being merciful for a day is one thing, for example, being merciful every day for a whole lifetime is another. Only at the end will our wisdom or folly, our goodness or wickedness, be disclosed.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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