The 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – year A – 12th November 2023
Lectionary Readings: Wisdom 6:12-16; Ps. 62:2-8; 1 Thess 4:13-18; Matt. 25:1-13
Theme: We are lamps illuminating the world
The Gospel today and for the next two weeks conclude the public teaching of Jesus in Matthew, setting out a way of discipleship for living between the time of Jesus’ earthly presence and his triumphant return – the “already” and the “not yet”. However, these parables have their dark side. In the one we read today, five young women have the door of a wedding feast slammed in their face, with the groom saying to them, “I do not know you.” The message of this difficult parable is not clear, but it has been understood as a warning about the end times when Christ will return and there will be a judgement. The timing of this is unknown, but what is required of us in the meantime is to live according to Christ’s teachings, with the lit lamp’s symbols of the works of love and mercy on which we will be judged.
At the beginning of chapter 4 which we read today from 1 Thessalonians, Paul, too, extols this early Christian community to live their new-found faith with complete commitment: “We urge you and appeal to you in the Lord Jesus to make more and more progress in the kind of life that you are meant to live: the life that God wants, as you learnt from us, and as you are already living it……What God wants is for you all to be holy…..you have learnt from God … to love one another …. However, we do urge you … to go on making even greater progress.” They will then be ready for Christ’s return, which at this stage Paul believed to be imminent: “the Lord himself will come down from heaven; those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and then those of us who are still alive will be taken up in the clouds, together with them, to meet the Lord in the air”.
The wisdom or prudence of the young women in Jesus’ parable is an echo of the praise sung of Wisdom in our first reading. This is the first attempt at describing it in the Book of Wisdom, which begins, “Love virtue … let honesty prompt your thinking about the Lord, seek God in simplicity of heart.” These are the qualities we need to be fully human, and this book urges us to love, desire and seek Wisdom. Instruction in Wisdom will lead us to God, the God we long for.
Psalm 62 speaks of our search and longing for God. We end our reading with verse 8, which is a pity, for verse 9 expresses how much we need to stay close to God: “My soul clings to you;/your right hand holds me fast.” Just as the gospel parable today stresses that we need to remain close to God, living as the Eternal would wish, so our psalm speaks of the need to remain close to God in prayer: “So I will bless you all my life,/in your name I will lift up my hands.” Then wisdom will indeed be ours, for we will know and live the truth of the psalmist’s words: “Your love is better than life.”
Bibliography: McKenzie, J.L. Dictionary of the Bible (New York: 1965) http://gcatholic.org/CatholicStudy
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Sr. Margaret Shepherd NDS, England, ISPS Ratisbonne contributor.