Wisdom 6:12-16; Psalm 63; 1Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13
We have three homily notes here; please scroll down the page.
Fr. Paul Oredipe: Wisdom of life – Using time wisely
Fr. Evaristus Okeke: Wisdom for Eternity!
Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai: Preparation for Christ’s Second Coming
Fr. Paul Oredipe:
Wisdom of life – Using time wisely
As we approach the end of the liturgical year, our liturgy today reminds us of another deadline which we do not (and cannot) know the precise date. In fact, the months of September, October, November and December are natural reminders of this deadline. Each of them ends with ‘ber’ – B E R – meaning – be ever ready.
“So stay awake because you do not know either the day or the hour” (Gospel). This is the attitude proper to the wise man, because “Meditating on her is understanding in its perfect form, and anyone keeping awake for her will soon be free from care” (1st Reading). Thus, we can end our life in peace, and always be with the Lord (2nd Reading).
There were five wise virgins and five foolish ones. The five foolish virgins squandered their time. The five wise virgins made the best use of every moment. The wise virgins entered into the banquet of the Master’s love. The foolish virgins were too busy wasting time to be ready for their Master’s return. How much time do you and I have left? We really do not know.
The proper Christian attitude is not to deny death, but to prepare for it. This is the wisdom behind the five bridesmaids who were prepared to enter the wedding reception. They did not know when the bridegroom was coming, but they were ready. So how do we prepare? You do not prepare for the end by doing a lot of stuff. You prepare by nurturing the proper disposition, the Christian attitude.
Today’s first reading speaks about wisdom. Wisdom is a way of life. The wise are always ready for the Lord because they are always united to Him. The gospel lesson is simple for this Sunday. Be like the wise virgins. Be ready to celebrate the banquet of the Lord love. Brothers and sisters, one thing we know for certain is the fact that there is a deadline. What we do not know is the date. If we can treat other things on the last minute approach, we cannot treat Christianity in the same way. In a world of uncertainties, the one thing we can be sure is death. While we do not know the day or the hour, it is one appointment we cannot postpone, cancel or avoid entirely. To dismiss the thought of death, pushing it to the back of our minds as something to be faced at a later date, is a type of foolishness Christ condemns in the gospel.
Our following of Christ must be a day to day reality. It is not something we fit in when we have times, nor something we can neglect and rush through as the last moment. There are certain things which cannot be obtained at the last minute or be borrowed. It is far too late for a student to be preparing when the day of the examination has come. A person cannot borrow a relationship with God. He must possess it for himself. At the last minute, all chances of making reparation and amendment will be over and past.
In today’s parable, like many marriage ceremonies today, there was a hitch, the bridegroom was late. Whatever caused the lateness is not our concern. He came at a possible time, his own time. Whenever it is, God’s time, we know is the best. We are called upon today to know that the day is known only to the Lord. It is hidden in His wisdom and love.
As ‘the Catechism of the Catholic Church’ reminds us: “Only the Father knows the day and the hour; only he determines the moment of its coming….” (1040). Our own responsibility therefore is watchfulness because we do not know the day, the hour, the place or even the manner of His coming. This is very true indeed. We can be called back home any moment from now, even right now (just think of the many cases of cardiac arrest or heart attack or failure).
To dismiss the thought of death, pushing it to the back of our minds as something at later date, is the type of foolishness Christ condemns in the gospel. If we live with no thought as to where the journey of life is taking us, (as tourists, rather than as pilgrims with vision and destination) we are neglecting to make elementary preparations for the coming of the kingdom. Death will catch us unaware and God will enter unexpectedly into our lives. We will be found empty inside with no oil in our spiritual lamps and the result will be disaster.
Experience has shown that one’s heart can become hardened and accustomed to sin. Hence Hebrew exhorts us: “Every day, as long as this today lasts, keep encouraging one another so that none of you is hardened by the lure (deceitfulness) of sin.” 3:13. This is at the beginning of our invitatory psalm which we pray every morning as a reminder for us all.
Each passing day brings us one day closer to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death is another reason why we must not delay. Studies and research have shown that one person dies every second and the next second can be your turn. Remember the rich fool in the Bible and acquire the wisdom of God to be ready from now. Time and tide wait for no one.
The message of the Gospel is simple: if we do what we have to do conscientiously, we have no reason to fear the unexpected coming of Christ. There is a blessing in doing the ordinary with sensitivity, in doing the same and sensible thing, in acting with common sense and prudence. The fourteenth century mystic Meister Eckhat summed it up perfectly when he said: “Wisdom consists in doing the next thing you have to do, doing it with your whole heart, and finding delight in doing it.” Someone described life in the following words: “life is preparation for death”.
Wisdom is not knowledge; it is similar to knowledge but superior to it. It is not just the gathering of facts. Wisdom is not mere intelligence. Wisdom is a disposition of openness and attentiveness to meanings. To be wise is to put everything in its proper perspective. We all know, whether we like or not, that we shall die one day. But we all do not use that knowledge well. Some even abuse it.
Wisdom is a gift and is an affair of values and priorities. As our first reading says: “By those who love her, she is readily seen and found by those who look for her” (Wis. 6:12). If you lack knowledge, you go to school; if you lack wisdom, get on your knees.” May the Lord teach us to know the shortness of our life, (that is, to count the number of our days) that we may gain wisdom of heart (cf. Pss. 90:12).
For the Thessalonians, at the time of St. Paul’s writing to them (our Second Reading), there was a feverish expectation of the return of the Lord. They were convinced that Jesus would very soon make his return to assemble his disciples and introduce them into the kingdom of his Father. Even Paul shared this belief (that the world will end in their own time, as some do today, in the 3 day-darkness prophecy). This caused serious problems. Some had stopped working because they said, there was little time left to live and the supplies they had would last them until the end. Some others became worried about the fate of their dead relatives.
It was to this problem that St. Paul addressed himself in the passage for our Second Reading today. He will talk about abstention from work in a second letter to the same community. Little by little the Christians began to see that the return of the Lord was not as imminent as it was at first thought. They began having doubts, they started getting discouraged and some even left the communities.
This is when Matthew rewrites the parable, concluding it with an exhortation that Jesus must have used on another occasion: “So stay awake because you do not know either the day or the hour”. Whether the world will end in our own time or not is not our business and concern. All that is required of us is that we apply ourselves to the truths of our existence; to be wise in the sight of God.
All this reflection about wisdom can be seen in one simple well-known story. A holy old monk was sweeping up the fallen leaves in the monastery garden when a visitor asked him: “What would you do, brother, if you knew you were to die in ten minutes.” The old monk replied: “I would carry on sweeping.”
In the same way, also St. Francis said that he will continue to do what he is doing. When St. John Bosco was asked what he would do if the end of the world was announced any minute, he replied, “Sit and relax and wait for it.”
Those are the replies of men who followed Christ every minute. Can we say the same today? Every moment on earth is precious and has to be used only for what in the end will add value to our existence.
So, better prepare hard now if you are truly wise and want to ever rejoice in divine consolation through Christ our Lord.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Fr. Evaristus Okeke:
Wisdom for Eternity
Bible Guide: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matt.25:13).
As we approach the end of the liturgical year, the liturgy of today tunes our minds to the four last things (death, judgment, heaven and hell). The first reading speaks of the inestimable value of wisdom – it is radiant and unfading. Ordinarily, good things are scarce and expensive and so, may only be affordable by a privileged few. It is not so with wisdom. The author of the book of wisdom says that those who appreciate wisdom, search for it; and those who search for it, surely find it. Thus wisdom is affordable by any who appreciate it. This wisdom is synonymous with vigilance. Those who are vigilant are free from care because they are concerned about the end of all things and how to attain eternity.
In the gospel, Jesus explicated further. The ten maidens are you and I who sojourn in this world. The bridegroom is the one towards whom we sojourn – Jesus Christ. The delay of the bridegroom symbolizes our ignorance of the time when God shall call us to himself to give account of our stewardship. The meeting with the Bridegroom is judgment. To enter into the marriage feast with the Bridegroom, is to be in heaven; while to be told “I do not know you”, is to be in hell.
Wisdom is apportioned to five of the maidens but not to the other five. The five wise maidens are not wise because they took extra oil. No! From the gospel, they were already referred to as wise prior to their carrying extra oil for their lamps. So, it is because they were wise that was why they took extra oil. Likewise, the other five were foolish not because they did not take extra oil. It is rather because they were foolish that was why they did not take extra oil.
Little wonder in the first reading, we read: “wisdom graciously appears to them in their paths, and meets them in every thought”. This means that wisdom directs the actions of those who possess it. If we are wise, it will show from what we do and how we do what we do. From the gospel, it is obvious that without a burning lamp, no maiden will be allowed to meet with the Bridegroom. Conscious of this criterion, the wise maidens went an extra mile in preparing for this all-important meeting with the Bridegroom and that is why they spent more of their resources in buying extra oil. At that time, buying extra oil may have seemed like a waste to the foolish maidens who may not have considered the meeting with the Bridegroom as worth such expensive preparation.
The wisdom the liturgy of today is speaking about is wisdom for eternity. To be wise for eternity means to be vigilant at all times, to go an extra mile, so that at no point are we distracted or caught unaware. To be wise for eternity means to live in this world with the consciousness that we are pilgrims. We are on transit and so should commit all that we have and are into resources that will sustain and assist us in our transition.
The burning lamps is righteousness without which no one can see God. If we are wise, we will use our gifts, talents and time to aid and sustain a life of righteousness so that whenever the Lord comes, we will be ready.
Still on the theme of Wisdom for Eternity, St. Paul in the second reading speaks to us about the reality of death. Through faith, those who die in Jesus also rise with him. Unity with Jesus transforms the mystery of death. Just as the ten maidens all had lamps, so also we all grieve at the death of our love ones. Those who are foolish grieve without hope because they understand death as an end in itself. Those who are wise grieve but with the consolation that their love ones who died in Christ, have only being transformed into a glorious form with the Lord.
With this understanding therefore, death becomes a reality that the wise continually dedicate all that they have in preparation for it. When we prepare for death, we are preparing to experience the resurrection of Christ. For this reason, therefore, St. Paul noted that those who are alive will have no advantage over those who have died in Christ. Their death is not a loss.
Just as the ten maidens could not decide not to meet with the Bridegroom, so also none of us can decide that we are not going to die or face the judgment seat. The wise thing to do, therefore, is to ensure that we die in Christ. To die in Christ, we must first live in Christ. Whoever lives in Christ, dies in Christ. The foolishness of the five maidens made them to attempt to die in Christ when they had not lived in him.
It is this same foolishness that can lure us into unpreparedness for eternity. The psalmist today echoes the voice of the wise: “For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord, my God”. This longing motivates every action and inaction of the wise. In this month of November, as we assiduously gain indulgence to free the dead from purgatory, let us also be reminded that death is a necessary path we must trend. *God Bless You!*
Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai:
Preparation for Christ’s Second Coming
The parable of the Ten Virgins has been described as a “watching parable.” ten virgins await a bridegroom; five have brought enough oil for their lamps for the wait, while another five need to purchase more oil after the arrival is delayed. The five virgins who are prepared for the bridegroom’s arrival are rewarded, while the five who are not prepared are disowned. The parable has a clear eschatological theme: be prepared for the Day of Judgement. Thus the purpose of this parable is to encourage us to become spiritually prepared for the second coming of Jesus Christ for we do not know when the Lord will call us from this life and so we must always be ready.
Christ’s parable of the wise and foolish virgins should remind us that each one of us—no matter how young or old we are—can live wise or foolish lives. But then, the first reading tells us that we can be wise as soon as we want to be. God’s wisdom is ready and waiting to meet us as soon as we call to her. We become “worthy of wisdom” when we want her. This means wanting to live by what she reveals to us, that is, God’s will. When we abide by God’s will we become wise but when we reject his will we become foolish.
Again, Christ’s parable warns us that there are certain things which cannot be borrowed. The foolish virgins found it impossible to borrow oil when they discovered they needed it. Beloved in Christ, no one can borrow virtue. Virtue is a necessary condition for eternal life; if we have not built virtues here on earth we cannot acquire it on the last day. Here on earth we borrow things and use, we even have course to gift people certain items or goods but certainly we don’t borrow virtue or faith; it must be acquired by an individual.
Precisely because of this, the response to the psalm says “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.” Matt.5:6 says “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied”. Beloved, we must thirst for eternal life to become truly satisfied. We must thirst for virtue, long for it before we can receive it. O God, you are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water. Therefore, while the soul thirsts the body pines – the body cooperates with this yearning. Some people say things like “the spirit is willing but the body is weak” Beloved, eternal life is for those who can push this adage aside and ensure that whenever their spirit is willing their body cooperates with it.
More so, this parable teaches us that there are certain things which cannot be obtained at the last minute. No good students prepares for examine on the day of examination or while already at the exam premises. Beloved, certain things cannot be reserved for the last minutes; we may be disappointed. Then in school we were always reminded of the ‘5Ps’ that says “Proper preparation prevent poor performance”. Beloved, if we must win eternal life the preparation is now. Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. If we are not prepared we shall be caught unawares like the five foolish virgins.
Christ is the bridegroom. We are the virgins awaiting his return to begin the wedding feast of heaven. Christ admonishes us to be prepared and awake. Christ will “return” and judge each and every one of us at the moment of our death in what the Church calls our particular judgment. We do not know when that moment will be. This raises two vital considerations:
- Do we have the oil of being in the state of grace or are we in the empty state of mortal sin? Just as the foolish virgins had time to get more oil for their lamps up until the arrival of the bridegroom, but not after, so we have time to repent and to go to Confession up until the moment of our death, but not after.
- Assuming we are in a state of grace, are we truly bearing the desired fruits? Are our ways foolish? We still have time to amend our lives and live it according to God’s will.
Conclusively, the parable warns us against reckless sleeping. The gospel says: “But while the bridgrooom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept” All ten virgins slept, even the wise that had the oil. The virgins represent the Church, and here is a strong admonition for the Church to stay awake and alert spiritually. The apostle Paul shed further light on what it means to fight against spiritual drowsiness when he says that the Day should overtake you as a thief and so let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober (1 Thessalonians 5:2-6). Lord Jesus, keep us true. Amen.