Introduction: This Sunday’s readings bring the usual warnings about preparation for the end of our own world, the end of our own time and our passage to another world. They tell us that a searching, watching, and growing heart is essential for a lively, dynamic Faith in God. They challenge us to check whether we are ready for these events and how we are preparing for them. (+ a homily starter anecdote)
Scripture lessons summarized: Since Jesus’ parable in today’s Gospel has five well-prepared, wise women, the first reading chosen for today is one which personifies wisdom as a woman. The author advises Jews in Alexandria not to envy the wisdom of the pagan philosophers, because they themselves have true wisdom in their Sacred Scripture, a wisdom which regulates not only this life but the next also. Hence, they must live their lives in strict conformity with the Divine wisdom given them so generously by God. In the second reading, Paul offers Christian wisdom, assuring those Christians who expected Jesus’ second coming in their lifetime that the death and Resurrection of Jesus is powerful enough to save even those who die before Jesus’ second coming. But they need to be alert, well-prepared and vigilant. In the Gospel parable of the ten virgins, the foolish virgins represent the “Chosen People of God” who were waiting for the Messiah but were shut out from the messianic banquet because they were unprepared. The parable teaches us that, like the five wise virgins, we should attend to duties of the present moment, preparing now, rather than waiting until it is too late.
Life messages: 1) We need to be wise enough to remain ever prepared: Wise Christians find Jesus in the most ordinary experiences of daily living — in the people they meet, the events that take place, and the situations in which they find themselves, and they carefully make their daily choices for God. They are ready to put the commandment of love into practice by showing kindness, mercy and forgiveness. 2) Let us be sure that our Lamps are ready for the end of our lives: Spiritual readiness, preparation, and growth are the result of intentional habits built into one’s life. We cannot depend on a Sunday Mass or morning service to provide all our spiritual needs. We cannot depend on Christian fellowship to provide us with spiritual development. The meeting of spiritual needs and spiritual development itself come through routine, mundane attention to ordinary spiritual disciplines — making sure we have enough oil or spiritual fuel: oil of compassion and mercy, oil of patience, sympathy, and forgiveness. We open ourselves to receive these graces by taking time for prayer, and being alone with God; by reading God’s Word; by living a sacramental life; by offering acts of service to others; by moral faithfulness, by loving obedience, and by spending time with other Christians for mutual prayer, study and encouragement. When we receive the graces we need, we thank God for His generous love. As taking these ways becomes habitual, they cease to be a struggle and begin to be a source of strength and blessing. They make our lives powerful against the onslaught of the world.
OT XXXII [A] (Nov 11): Wis 6:12-16; I Thes 4:13-18; Mt 25:1-13
Homily starter anecdotes: 1) Forgetting the parachute: In April 1988 the evening news reported the sad story of a photographer who was also a skydiver. He had jumped from a plane along with several other skydivers and filmed the group as they individually dove out of the plane and opened their parachutes. As the video was being shown of each member of the crew jumping out and then pulling their rip cord so that their parachute opened to the wind, the final skydiver opened his chute and then the picture went out of control. The announcer reported that the cameraman had fallen to his death, having jumped out of the plane without a parachute. It was not until he reached for the ripcord that he realized he was in free fall, taking pictures without a parachute. Tragically he was unprepared for the jump. It did not matter how many times he had done it before or what skill he had. By forgetting the parachute, he made a foolish and deadly mistake. Nothing could save him, because his Faith was in a parachute which he had never taken the trouble to buckle on. It is a story not unlike the parable which Jesus tells about the foolish bridesmaids forgetting to bring something very important and necessary. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/
2) “What’s your purpose in life, Bob?” Josh McDowell tells about an executive “head-hunter” (recruiter) who goes out and hires corporation executives for large firms. This recruiter once told McDowell that when he gets an executive that he’s trying to hire for someone else, he likes to disarm him. “I offer him a drink,” said the recruiter, “take my coat off, then my vest, undo my tie, throw up my feet and talk about baseball, football, family, whatever, until he’s all relaxed. Then, when I think I’ve got him relaxed, I lean over, look him square in the eye and say, ‘What’s your purpose in life?’ It’s amazing,” said the recruiter, “how top executives fall apart at that question.” Then he told about interviewing one fellow recently. He had him all disarmed, had his feet up on his desk, talking about football. Then the recruiter leaned over and said, “What’s your purpose in life, Bob?” And the executive who was being recruited said, without blinking an eye, “To go to Heaven and take as many people with me as I can.” “For the first time in my career,” said the recruiter, “I was speechless.” [Stories For the Heart, compiled by Alice Gray (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Books, 1996), p. 112.] No wonder — he had encountered someone who was really prepared! In today’s Gospel parable of the ten virgins Jesus warns us to be ever prepared to meet God our Creator at the end of our lives to give an account of how we have lived. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/ )
3) “Be prepared” and “Don’t run out of gas.”: One thing that all Scouts, young and old, never forget is the Boy Scout Motto: “Be prepared.” If you’ve ever set up a tent and didn’t tie your lines securely, you know what happens when the wind and rain hits! A tent-collapse in the middle of the night is a rude awakening! Or, if you get a brand-new pair of hiking boots and don’t properly break them in, then go on a ten-mile hike, it’s pretty painful! You might forget bug-spray during mosquito season. Or if you bring a flashlight on a campout, but not extra batteries; that can make it somewhat challenging finding the latrine in the middle of the night! We sometimes learn the hard way to anticipate our needs. We need to plan ahead, before it’s too late. It was not raining when Noah built the ark! Through the parable of the ten virgins, Jesus warns us to be ever prepared for the end of our lives. How many of you have ever run out of gas? In most audiences, this would be nearly everyone. I cannot verify these statistics, so I caution you that they may be flawed. It would appear that every year at least a half million people call for help because they have run out of gas. Besides flat tires, dead batteries, and misplaced keys, running out of gas ranks right up there in the reasons why people call for roadside service. One might understand this happening a generation ago, when gas gauges were not entirely accurate, and when all the warning lights of our day were non-existent. But now we have warning messages that our fuel is running low (giving us perhaps an hour more of driving), and then additional, progressively urgent warnings indicating just how many estimated miles of driving we have left. One must say that most people who run out of fuel are “without excuse.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/ )
Introduction: Our lectionary ends the Church’s liturgical year with texts about the coming of the Son of Man, which leads into the New Year’s Season of Advent — the Season of “Coming.” Jesus’ future coming as the conquering Son of Man at the end of time and his past coming as the helpless infant in a manger are the topics of our remembrance. This Sunday’s readings bring the usual warnings about preparation for the end of our own world, the end of our own time and our passage to another world. They tell us that a searching, watching, and growing heart is essential for a lively, dynamic faith in God. They ask us whether we are ready for these events and how we are preparing for them.
The first reading (Wis 6:12-16) explained: Jesus’ parable in today’s Gospel shows us five well-prepared, wise women, and the first reading chosen for today offers us Wisdom, personified as a woman. Writing in Greek to the dispersed Jews living in the cosmopolitan city of Alexandria, in Egypt, around 100 BC, the author wants his fellow Jews to seek wisdom and learn from it. Wisdom is a Divine gift – but a gift that will not elude the one who seeks it sincerely. What the author suggests is that the faithful adherence of the Alexandrian Jews to their ancestral religion in their somewhat hostile environment is seeking after Divine wisdom. The Jews need not envy the wisdom of the pagan philosophers, because they themselves have true wisdom in their Sacred Scripture, a wisdom which regulates not only this life but the next also. They must live their lives in strict conformity with the Divine wisdom given them so generously by God. Those who are watchful enough to find and welcome wisdom will also find that they will be prepared for the rest of the journey – from this life to the next. Wisdom (the Holy Spirit of God) is searching for those who are waiting. The message given by the first reading is clear: God willingly reveals Himself, but mysteriously in His own way, according to His own timetable. God can be found, but only by those who never give up the search, yet patiently await His initiative. “The deepest wisdom and fullest readiness is to live chastely, honestly, nonviolently (Mt 5, and to meet our neighbors’ basic needs (Mt 25).” (Fr. Dennis Ham)
The second reading I Thes 4:13-18 explained: First Thessalonians is the earliest of Paul’s letters. When he wrote it, contemporary Christians, including Paul himself, expected Jesus to come very soon –within their lifetime — to rebuild the Kingdom and to establish his glorious reign. So they needed to be vigilant in order not to miss his return. Some quit their jobs in the belief that the Kingdom was at hand. But then the years passed and there seemed to be no signs of the Second Coming. Paul writes this earliest Christian letter to respond to the community’s fears and questions about those who die before the Parousia: will the few Christians who die in this short period somehow miss out on the benefits of Jesus’ return? Paul says they will not, because what God has wrought in the death and Resurrection of Jesus is powerful enough to save even those who have already “fallen asleep.” Paul helps them to realize that what they need to do is believe in what the Lord has done for us. He doesn’t want them to fret. He explains, “We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope” (1 Thes, 4:13). Instead, the Thessalonians should prepare themselves for the Kingdom. The central idea is clear: only the alert and the vigilant can experience God coming in their lives. Those who are asleep to the present never seem to notice God’s Presence.
Gospel exegesis: Context: Today’s Gospel passage is situated in the context of Jesus’ discourse (in Matthew’s chapters 25 and 26), on the end times and the second coming of Christ. After speaking of the destruction of the temple (Mt 24:1-3) and the end of the age (Mt 24:4-51), Jesus gives us the parable of the wise and the foolish bridesmaids to illustrate teachings about the coming of the Kingdom. This parable, along with three others in chapter 25 and 26, offers pointed application for the waiting faithful in the early Church as they come to terms with an unexpected delay in the Parousia (or the second coming of Christ), which most expected in their lifetime.
The parable tells a story which could have happened at any time in a Palestinian village and which could still happen today. Since a wedding was a great occasion, the whole village lined up at the sides of the road to wish God’s blessings on the bride being taken in procession by her groom to her new home. The invited ones would join the procession, which started from the bride’s house and moved to the groom’s house, to take part in the week-long celebration of the marriage. Since the bridegroom might come to the bride’s house unexpectedly, the bridal party had to be ready at any time, with accompanying virgins (bridesmaids in our day), carrying lighted torches and reserve oil in jars. Five of these virgins, who, having forgotten to bring an extra jar of oil, had to run to the dealers to buy some, missed the arrival of the groom’s party, and so, lost their chance to take part in the celebration. They lost not only the opportunity of witnessing the marriage ceremony, but also of participating in the week-long celebration that followed.
The meaning of the parable: This parable has both a local and a universal meaning. The local meaning is that the foolish virgins represent the “Chosen People of God” who were waiting for the Messiah but were shut out from the Messianic banquet because they were unprepared. “The division between the wise and the foolish virgins becomes the division between those in Matthew’s church who keep the commandments of Christ, the new lawgiver of the church, and those who hear his words but fail to do what he commands.” (Fr. Reginald Fuller). The universal meaning is that the five foolish virgins represent those who fail to prepare for the end of their lives. What matters is not the occasional or the last-minute burst of spiritual fervor but habitual attention to one’s responsibilities before God. At the final judgment, there will be no depending upon the resources of others, no begging or borrowing of grace. The parable implies that we should attend to duties of the present moment, preparing now rather than waiting until it is too late.
The allegorical interpretation of the parable: The virgins represent the Church or Christian community that is waiting for Christ’s Second Coming. The Bridegroom is Christ. The wedding feast is the great and joyous occasion in which Christ comes for his Church (Rv 19:9). The delay of the Bridegroom corresponds to the delay of the Second Coming or Parousia. The Bridegroom’s arrival in the dark of night is the Second Coming itself. The closing of the door is the final judgment. Many Old Testament texts also presuppose the imagery of God as Israel’s husband or bridegroom (e.g. Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 31:32 Hosea 2:16). The rejection of the foolish maidens is the Last Judgement and, perhaps, the foolish maidens represent Israel and the wise ones the Gentiles
“Make sure you have enough oil,” that is, have a good relationship with God: Literally, our text answers the question, “What shall we do while we wait?” The answer is: “Make sure you have enough oil for your lamps!” Scripture scholars of the past and the present have reflected on what this oil symbolizes, and they have arrived at different, but related, views. (i) Perhaps, the best explanation is that the oil stands for our personal relationship with God who is the Source and Power behind our good deeds or “fruit-bearing” (Matthew 3:8, 10; 7:16, 17, 18, 19, 20; 12:33; 13:8, 23, 26; 21:19, 34, 41, 43). It is not something that one can attain overnight or borrow from someone else as the foolish virgins attempted to do. This “state of grace” is something we must receive from God personally and directly. (ii) In Scripture, oil is often a symbol for the Holy Spirit. It is when we submit our work, our intentions, our purpose to the Holy Spirit that He fills our deeds with power and effectiveness. (iii) Oil stands for character and Christian values which we cannot borrow – or buy, the foolish virgins’ choice. That metaphor of “oil” refers to the way we do or do not live the virtuous life that God freely empowers us to live. You cannot “borrow” these virtues at the last moment; you must “live” them. These are very sobering words in the Gospel, and a reminder that we can never use the excuse that “no one told me.” (iv) Oil stands for “spiritual capital” (our merits) – all that we build up by good works: concern for the needy and acts of justice. (v) Perhaps, oil refers to real Christian Faith. (vi) Oil is the spirit of reconciliation with the others and a willingness to share our lives and its blessings with others. (vii) Oil may also be a generic reference to faithful and obedient discipleship as defined by the whole Gospel.
Warnings given by the parable: 1) The parable warns us that there are certain things which cannot be obtained at the last minute: a) a good relationship with God, b) good character, c) merits from good deeds of sharing and forgiving love and humble service done to others. 2) The parable also warns us of certain elements in Christian life that cannot be borrowed: a) relationship with God, b) ideal character, c) Faith.
The parable when applied to Holy Mass: We have to learn three lessons from this parable: 1) an eager, expectant waiting for the Lord’s coming in all his ways; 2) a recognition that we can’t borrow what we’re going to need to meet the Lord when we comes; and 3) a loving admonition from the Lord not to procrastinate on our preparations until it’s too late. This Mass is meant to help us with each of the three. If we’re truly ready to meet the Lord each week here, with our souls clean from serious sins, with our hearts hungering for Him, with the Lord himself, the Light of the World, burning inside of us, fueled by the oil of love, we’ll never be caught off guard, whether he comes today, tomorrow, or eighty years from now. Our reaction to today’s word of the Lord, and to the tremendous Gift that is the Mass which is offered here every day, will determine whether in the final analysis we’re stupid or we’re wise. Is our soul thirsting for the living God more than a man in the desert pants for water? Are we keeping perpetual vigil seeking Wisdom Incarnate? Have we come asking the Lord to fill not just our lamps but our flasks so that we can make a total self-offering? The Lord who knows us wants to give us all these gifts. “The Bridegroom is here. Let us go out to meet Christ the Lord!”
Life messages: 1) We need to be wise enough to remain ever prepared: Wise Christians live each day in the light of Jesus’ vision. Such people find Him in the most ordinary experiences of daily living — in the people they meet, the events that take place, and the situations in which they find themselves. They carefully make their daily choices for God. They are ready to put the commandment of love into practice by kindness and forgiveness. There is absolutely no better way to prepare for the final call than to learn to spend each day in the company of Jesus, remembering his assurance, “I am with you always.” (CCC 1036, 2612: vigilant waiting for the Lord’s return). The following short prayer should be always on their lips: “Lord, grant that all my thoughts, intentions, actions and responses may be directed solely to Your love and service this day.” “Help me, Lord, to seek, to find, and to respond to You in every single experience this day.” When we eventually hear the final call, “Get up! The Master is coming!” we will not be worried, but happy and more than ready to meet Him, as well as old friends and family, in Heaven. God has made this promise to us: “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever” (Dn 12:3).
2) Let us be sure that our Lamps are ready for the end of our lives: Spiritual readiness, preparation and growth do not just happen. They come as a result of intentional habits built into one’s life. We cannot depend on a Sunday morning service to provide all our spiritual needs. We cannot depend on Christian fellowship to provide us with spiritual development. These things come through routine, mundane attention to ordinary spiritual disciplines — making sure we have enough oil: spiritual fuel. They come when we habitually take time for prayer and being alone with God. They come through reading God’s Word; living a sacramental life; performing acts of service for others; being morally faithful; obeying God with love, and spending time with other Christians for mutual prayer, study, and encouragement. These are the things which, along with the normal difficulties of life, enable a person to grow in Christ and to be prepared for Christ’s coming. Without these things we will not be prepared. The preparation cannot be hit-or-miss, nor can it be postponed. We dare not procrastinate, lest death come unexpectedly and ruin us. We need to develop those things which encourage our spiritual growth into holy habits in our lives, for that growth must take precedence over other interests and claims on our time and attention. As these habits become entrenched, they cease to be a struggle for us and begin to be a source of strength and blessing. They make our lives powerful against the onslaught of the world.
3) What is the oil that we lack? Oil in Scripture is often a symbol for the Holy Spirit. Perhaps we try to spring into action without first submitting our work to the Holy Spirit. Or perhaps we lack the oil of kindness and compassion. There’s no way we can be ready to meet Jesus without the essential oils of compassion and mercy. Perhaps we lack the oil of patience and sympathy. Without such oil, we’re ill-equipped to deal with someone who comes to us in need of long-term love and guidance. Perhaps we’re short of the oil of education and instruction, or we’re not adequately trained and lack proper skills to be of service in areas where help is needed. Perhaps God is calling us to take our expertise and skills to another level in order that we may more adequately meet Jesus in the people God allows to enter our lives. I need to have the oil of being in the state of grace. If not, I am in the empty a state of mortal sin. Ignatius of Loyola’s famous prayer is the prayer of the follower of Jesus; ‘Lord, teach me to know you more, love you more and serve you more faithfully in my life.’ (Spiritual Exercises). The “more” indicates that our earthly life is always in process, never a finished product: like love and friendship it grows in our lives. It is exciting that Jesus is never gone from us.: risen from the dead he is always alive, always new. Our reading of the Gospel, our sharing at Mass and the sacraments and our personal prayer keep this relationship always alive, always new.
JOKE OF THE WEEK
1) A tour group was riding in an elevator to the top of the Empire State Building. At about the 102nd floor, a woman asked the tour guide, “If the cables on this elevator break, do we go up or down?” The tour guide answered, “Well, that depends on how you are living.”
2) A Sunday school teacher was testing the children in her class one morning to see if they understood the concept of “getting to Heaven.” She said, “If I sold my house and my car, held a big garage sale and gave all my money to the Church, would that get me into Heaven?”
“NO!” the children answered.
“If I cleaned the Church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into Heaven?”
Again, the answer was, “NO!”
“Well, then, if I was kind to animals, gave candy to children and loved my husband, would that get me into Heaven?”
Again, they all answered, “NO!”
“Well,” the teacher continued, “how do I get into Heaven?”
A five-year-old boy shouted out, “YOU GOTTA BE DEAD.”
3) When Bishop Philip Brooks, author of “O, Little Town of Bethlehem,” was seriously ill, he requested that none of his friends come to see him. But when an acquaintance of his named Robert Ingersoll, the famous anti-Christian propagandist, came to see him, Brooks allowed him to enter his room. Ingersoll said, “I appreciate this very much, especially when you aren’t letting any of your close friends see you.” Bishop Brooks responded, “Oh, I’m confident of seeing them in the next world, but this may be my last chance to see you.”
4) Hibernation in the White House: Do you recall Laura Bush’s comments a few years ago about her husband? She said, “George always says he’s delighted to come to these press dinners. Baloney. He’s usually in bed by now. I’m not kidding. I said to him the other day, ‘George, if you really want to end tyranny in the world, you’re going to have to stay up later.’ I am married to the president of the United States, and here’s our typical evening: Nine o’clock, Mr. Excitement here is sound asleep, and I’m watching “Desperate Housewives” on television. One day in February 2003, with America on the verge of a war with Iraq, Secretary of State Colin Powell was reminded that, notwithstanding the stress, President George W. Bush was in bed by 10 o’clock every night and slept like a baby. “I sleep like a baby, too,” Powell replied. “Every two hours I wake up screaming!” Ronald Reagan insisted on taking a nap every afternoon. Even so, he was so sleepy that he nearly overslept his own presidential inauguration. On one occasion, he did in fact drop off at an awkward moment … in an audience with Pope St. John Paul II.
5) During his 1960 presidential campaign, John F. Kennedy often closed his speeches with the story of Colonel Davenport, the Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives. One day in 1789, the sky of Hartford darkened ominously, and some of the representatives, glancing out the windows, feared the end was at hand. Quelling a clamor for immediate adjournment, Davenport rose and said, “The Day of Judgement is either approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. Therefore, I wish that candles be brought.” (as quoted at: “Sermon Nuggets” http://home.twcny.rr.com/lyndale/Pentecost%2025A.htm)
Websites of the week
- Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs: https://lectiotube.com/
- Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant: https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066
- YouTube video: https://youtu.be/iFGjzT_lF8s
- VCat Video Catechism Home: vcat.org/
- Faith shared via videos: http://bustedhalo.com/
- Muslims against Catholics University: https://youtu.be/BvWzBfXhIpA
- Text week: http://www.textweek.com/mtlk/matt25a.htm
25- Additional anecdotes:
1) “At last I’ve met a man more stupid than myself.” There is an old legend about a man who had a rather stupid servant. The master often got exasperated with his servant. One day in a fit of frustration he said to the servant, “You’ve got to be the stupidest man I’ve ever met. Look, I want you to take this staff and carry it with you. And if you ever meet a man stupider than you are, give him the staff.” So the servant carried the staff. Often out in the marketplace, he’d meet some pretty stupid people. But he was never sure they were worse off than he. Years passed with the servant carrying his staff. Then one day, he came back to the castle and was ushered into the bedroom of his master. His master was quite sick. In the course of their conversation, the master said, “I’m going on a long journey.” The servant said, “When do you plan to be back?” The master said, “This is a journey from which I’ll not return.” The servant said, “Sir, have you made all the necessary preparations?” The master said, “No, I have not.” The servant said, “Could you have made preparations?” The master said, “Yes, I guess I’ve had my life to make them, but I’ve been busy about other things.” The servant said “Master, you’re going on a journey from which you’ll never return, you could’ve prepared for it, and you just didn’t?” The master said, “Yes, I guess that’s right.” The servant took the staff he’d carried so long and said, “Master take this with you. At last I’ve met a man more stupid than myself.” Telling us the parable of the 10 virgins Jesus warns us to be ever prepared to meet him as our judge on the day of our death. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
2) “I’ll tell you what’s more important; it’s the will to prepare.” In 1976, Indiana University’s basketball team was undefeated throughout the regular season and captured the NCAA National Championship. Controversial and colorful coach Bobby Knight led them to that championship. Shortly afterwards, Coach Knight was interviewed on the television show 60 Minutes. The commentator asked him, “Why is it, Bobby, that your basketball teams at Indiana are always so successful? Is it the will to succeed?” “The will to succeed is important,” replied Bobby Knight, “but I’ll tell you what’s more important; it’s the will to prepare. It’s the will to go out there every day, training and building those muscles and sharpening those skills!” [John R. Noe, Peak Performance Principles for High Achievers (New York: Berkley Books, 1984).] No wonder Bobby Knight has been so successful as a coach! (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
3) “Don’t fool yourself.” Another famous coach believed the same thing. “Hurry Up” Yost was the football coach at the University of Michigan. A player once assured Coach Yost that their team was sure to win on Saturday because the players had “the will to win.” “Hurry Up” Yost answered: “Don’t fool yourself. The will to win is not worth a plugged nickel unless you have the will to prepare.” That is true. Whether we are talking about sports, or education, or science, or business, or any worthwhile endeavor in life, success goes to the person who has the will to prepare! (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
4) “Keep your lamps lighted and your fork in hand.” There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. As she was getting her things in order, she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the funeral Mass, what Scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. Everything was in order and as the pastor was preparing to leave, the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her. “There’s one more thing,” she said excitedly. “What’s that?” asked the pastor. “This is very important,” the young woman continued. “I want my body to be buried with a fork in my right hand.” The pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say. “That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the young woman asked. “Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the pastor. The young woman explained. “My grandmother once told me this story, and that’s where I got the idea. I have, also, always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of attending Church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ’Keep your fork!’ It was my favorite part of the meal because I knew that something better was coming, like chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance! So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder, “What’s with the fork?” Then I want you to tell them: “Keep your fork–the best is yet to come.”(http://frtonyshomilies.com/)_
5) Can you “sleep when the wind blows”? A young man applied for a job as a farm hand. When asked for his qualifications, he said, “I can sleep when the wind blows.” This puzzled the farmer, but he liked the young man and hired him. A few days later, the farmer and his wife were awakened in the night by a violent storm. They quickly began to check things out to see if all were secure. They found that the shutters of the farmhouse had been securely fastened. A good supply of logs had been set next to the fireplace. The farm implements had been placed in the storage shed, safe from the elements. The tractor had been moved into the garage. The barn had been properly locked. Everything was fine. Even the animals were calm. It was then that the farmer grasped the meaning of the young man’s words, “I can sleep when the wind blows.” Because the farm hand had performed his work loyally and faithfully when the skies were clear, he was prepared for the storm when it broke. Consequently, when the wind blew, he had no fear. He was able to sleep in peace. In the parable that is our Gospel lesson this morning, Jesus is talking about exactly the same thing, being able to sleep when the winds blows, in other words, being prepared.(http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
6) Victory goes to those who are prepared. Graham Greene once observed: “There is always one moment when the door opens and lets the future in.” Will you be ready when your time comes? Robert Runcie was. During a battle in WWII, a British tank was hit. The crew, except for the co-driver, scrambled out. The turret on the tank was stuck in such a position that it could not be opened, pinning the co-driver inside. Under heavy fire, a soldier jumped out of his own tank, ran to turn the turret, and dragged the copilot out. That soldier, Robert Runcie, was ready to do what was needed in WWII. He was also ready to do what was needed when he became Archbishop of Canterbury many years later. Victory goes to those who are prepared. Preparation and character go hand in hand. One more thing needs to be said. It is amazing that many of us who are prepared for life fail to prepare for eternity. We get our degrees in school. We position ourselves for the right jobs. We set our goals ten years in advance. We know where we want to retire. Each year we sock away the limit in our IRAs. And we totally disregard the most important reality of all our relationship with God – until it’s too late and we are unprepared.(http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
7) “Eight Steps Toward a More Satisfying Life.” In a recent TIME magazine sidebar, there were “Eight Steps Toward a More Satisfying Life.” Here are the Eight Steps: 1. Count your blessings. 2. Practice acts of kindness. 3. Savor life’s joys. 4. Thank a mentor. 5. Learn to forgive. 6. Invest time and energy in friends and family. 7. Take care of your body. 8. Develop strategies for coping with stress and hardship. (TIME, 17 (January 2005), A8-A9.] This morning when we reflect on the parable of the ten virgins, we add one more step, a 9th Step to the strategy: Be prepared. Be prepared to step off life’s planned paths, and trust the Spirit. After all, the Spirit can appear in many guises, disguises, and surprises. (Rev. Leonard Sweet). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
8) “You are given three minutes to get into the boat.” There’s a true story that comes from the sinking of the Titanic. A frightened woman found her place in a lifeboat that was about to be lowered into the raging North Atlantic. She suddenly thought of something she needed, so she asked permission to return to her stateroom before they cast off. She was granted three minutes, or they would leave without her. She ran across the deck that was already slanted at a dangerous angle. She raced through the gambling room with all the money that had rolled to one side, ankle deep. She came to her stateroom and quickly pushed a side her diamond rings and expensive bracelets and necklaces as she reached to the shelf above her bed and grabbed three small oranges. She quickly found her way back to the lifeboat and got in. Now that seems incredible because thirty minutes earlier she would not have chosen a crate of oranges over the smallest diamond. But death had boarded the Titanic. One blast of its awful breath had transformed all values. Instantaneously, priceless things had become worthless. Worthless things had become priceless. And in that moment, she preferred three small oranges to a crate of diamonds. —There are events in life, which have the power to transform the way we look at the world. Jesus’ parable about the ten virgins offers one of these types of events, for the parable is about the Second Coming of Christ. (Sermons.com) v(http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
9) Unprepared. Forgetful. Irresponsible: These are the ten best things to say if you get caught sleeping at your desk: #10. “They told me at the blood bank this might happen.” #9. “This is just a 15-minute power-nap like they raved about in that time management course you sent me to.” #8. “Whew! Guess I left the top off the White-Out. You probably got here just in time!” #7. “I wasn’t sleeping! I was meditating on the mission statement and envisioning a new paradigm.” #6. “I was testing my keyboard for drool resistance.” #5. “I was doing a highly specific Yoga exercise to relieve work-related stress. Are you discriminating against people who practice Yoga?” #4. “Darn! Why did you interrupt me? I had almost figured out a solution to our biggest problem.” #3. “The coffee machine is broken . . . ” #2. “Someone must’ve put decaf in the wrong pot . . . ” And the #1 best thing to say if you get caught sleeping at your desk . . . ” . . . in His name. Amen.” Jesus tells a parable in today’s Gospel about ten young women–bridesmaids— five of whom forgot their specific responsibility in a wedding celebration. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
10) Lighted candle race: The Greeks had a race in their Olympic games that was unique. The winner was not the runner who finished first. It was the runner who finished with his torch still lit. Some of our schools used to have its imitation in the form of a 50-meter race for girls in the primary schools with lighted candles. Let us run all the way of our life with the flame of our torches still lit for God.(http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
11) Spiritual Intelligence: Scientists are working feverishly on AI—Artificial Intelligence. But Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids tells us more about what we might call “Spiritual Intelligence” than about mere high IQ. Researchers are advancing NEW ideas of what intelligence is, how it should be measured, and which values should be invoked in considerations of the human intellect. Harvard University professor Howard Gardner points out that psychologist and journalist Daniel Goleman has achieved worldwide success with his 1995 book “Emotional Intelligence.” Contending that this new concept (sometimes nicknamed EQ) may matter as much as or more than IQ, Goleman draws attention to such pivotal human abilities as controlling one’s emotional reactions and ‘reading’ the signals of others. Psychiatrist Robert Coles, author of The Moral Intelligence of Children, argues that we should prize character over intellect, and work to cultivate human beings with a strong sense of right and wrong. Others are pushing leadership intelligence (LQ), executive intelligence (EQ) and even money-management intelligence! A quick cruise through cyberspace reveals numerous types of intelligences, including Visual-spatial intelligence, Verbal-linguistic intelligence, Musical-Rhythmic intelligence, Logical-mathematical intelligence, Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, Interpersonal intelligence, Intrapersonal intelligence etc. Finally, the research these days is in AI — Artificial Intelligence — an area in which researchers have created conversational computer programs that imitate psychotherapists, and programs called “chatterbots” that simulate paranoid-schizophrenics, that chat on the Internet and that control Webcams. (For details, confer www.scbe.on.ca/mit/mi.htm). Today we hear the parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids, a story told by Jesus to illustrate the character of the Kingdom of God, and to describe what constitutes Spiritual Intelligence. In this passage, we encounter a tale that is nothing less than a test of spiritual IQ, a cutting-edge research project that measures spiritual wisdom.(http://frtonyshomilies.com/ )
12) Unprepared Mayflower Pilgrims: One of the most cherished events in our history was the landing of the Mayflower on these shores. One hundred and two Pilgrims stepped from their storm-tossed little ship with unsteady legs and huge relief. It would be difficult to imagine a group of people more ill-suited to a life in the wilderness, according to Bill Bryson in his book, Made in America. These Pilgrims packed as if they had misunderstood the purpose of the trip. They found room for sundials and candle-snuffers, a drum, a trumpet, and a complete history of the country of Turkey. One man named William Mullins packed 126 pairs of shoes and thirteen pairs of boots. Yet the Pilgrims failed to bring a single cow or horse, plow or fishing line. Among the professions represented on the Mayflower’s manifest were two tailors, a printer, several merchants, a silk worker, a shopkeeper, and a hatter–not exactly the most appropriate occupations when one thinks of surviving in a hostile environment. With the uncertain exception of their captain, Miles Standish, probably none in the party had ever tried to bring down a wild animal. Hunting in seventeenth-century Europe was a sport reserved for the aristocracy. Even those who labeled themselves farmers generally had scant practical knowledge of husbandry, since “farmer” in the 1600s, and for some time afterward, signified an owner of land rather than one who worked it. These Pilgrims were, in short, dangerously unprepared for the rigors ahead, and they demonstrated their incompetence in the most dramatic possible way: by dying in droves. Six expired in the first two weeks, eight the next month, seventeen more in February, a further thirteen in March. By April, when the Mayflower set sail back to England, just fifty-four people, nearly half of them children, were left to begin the long work of turning this tenuous toehold into a self-sustaining colony. [(New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1994), pp. 2-3.] What are we thinking of when we spend our lives accumulating funds for old age, but ignore the spiritual side of our lives so that life after death will be worth living? (http://frtonyshomilies.com/ )
13) His name was Alexander Graham Bell. In early 1874 an inventor named Elisha Gray transmitted a few musical notes over a telegraph wire. He thought to himself, “If I can send music, perhaps I could send the human voice.” The New York Times reported predictions of a “talking telegraph” and the public began to grow eager for it. Just one-year later Gray believed he had the answer. Tin-can like voice chambers connected by a wire in a liquid that could turn vibrations into signals is what came into his mind. But inexplicably, he did not put his idea on paper for two months. After finally making a sketch, he waited four more days before he went to the patent office. When he arrived, Mr. Gray was told that just two hours earlier a school-teacher had come through that same door with his own sketch and had already applied for the patent. His name was Alexander Graham Bell. When you compared the sketches, the voice chambers, the wire, and the liquid everything was identical. The reason we know the name Alexander Graham Bell and until today, never heard the name Elisha Gray is simply because one man seized the opportunity when he could. The other one waited until it was too late That’s what happened to the five foolish virgins in today’s Gospel story. . (Rev. James Merritt). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/ )
14) “If the end of the world came.” A mother wrote to Catholic Digest saying that one day when she was heading up the stairs with a basket containing the last load of folded clothes, herding her three little ones in front of her for bedtime, her eldest child, Peggy, who was then in kindergarten, 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. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
15) End-time or Beginning-time? On September 14, 2005, an Australian Jesuit colleague and friend, Paddy Meagher, bade farewell to India after more than four decades of dedicated service here. He was suffering from melanoma (skin cancer) that had struck suddenly and spread over his face leaving lumps likely to affect his brain and throat. Bravely enduring his pain, he said, “I know I’ll die soon and I’m prepared. Nonetheless, I’ll continue reading and writing until death comes!” Paddy died on January 5, 2006. For wise virgins like these, there is always oil in their lamps. And for many of the victims of earthquakes who call God Abba or Allah, what we see as end-time is more likely to be a beginning-time for the eternal wedding feast. (Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds; quoted by Fr. Botelho).(http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
16) Timing: General Douglas MacArthur’s autobiography, Reminiscences, is full of World War II stories. One such story is about Capt. Thomas G. Lanphier, a pilot of the 339th Fighter Squadron who “Became the unsung hero of an extraordinary exploit” on April 18, 1943. The Japanese code had been broken, and our Intelligence learned exactly where and when Admiral Yamamoto was going to fly in to one of the Solomon Islands. Yamamoto was the commander-in-chief of the Japanese combined Fleet. So eighteen P-38s were sent from Guadalcanal, 400 miles away to attack Yamamoto. At the exact hour of rendezvous, Yamamoto’s squadron appeared and were met by our waiting planes. Sixteen P-38s went after his Zero escorts, while Tom Lanphier and another pilot were assigned to attack the two bombers carrying Yamamoto and his staff. Yamamoto’s pilot used every artifice to escape, but eventually Lanphier’s gunfire hit his bomber causing it to explode and crash. Washington lauded Lanphier’s feat as one of the most significant strikes of the war but labeled it top secret and forbade its publication until 1945 when Tom was awarded the Navy Cross. Timing, alertness and readiness were key factors in this air strike, which proved to be a turning point in the war. These same themes are found in today’s readings, but for different reasons. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho).(http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
17) How will Jesus find us? Nineteen hundred years ago, the volcano Mt Vesuvius erupted in Italy. When the eruption ended, the city of Pompeii lay buried under 18 feet of volcanic ash. The city remained that way until modern times, when archaeologists excavated it. What they found amazed everyone. There were carbonized loaves of bread, fruit still retaining its flavor, and olives still swimming in their oil. But there were even more amazing discoveries. The volcanic ash had frozen people in the exact position they had occupied when the disaster struck. The bodies of the people decayed. As they did, they left behind hollow cavities in the hardened ash. By pouring liquid plaster into these cavities, archaeologists were able to make casts of the victims. Some of the casts evoke an emotional response. For example, one is that of a young mother hugging her child tightly in her arms. Another is that of a Roman sentry still at his post, standing erect fully armed. He had remained calm and faithful to his duty to the end. A third that of a man standing upright with a sword in his hand. His foot is resting on a pile of gold and silver. Scattered about him are five bodies, probably would-be looters he had killed. The plaster casts illustrate in a dramatic way the two themes of today’s readings. The first theme is that of the suddenness with which the end of the world and the second coming of Jesus will take place. (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
18) Eternal preparedness: From time immemorial, people have resorted to stories, especially fables, to teach some moral points for our instruction. In the West, Aesop’s Fables were famous. One such fable from this collection, which every child reads, is “The Hare and the Tortoise’. Once upon a time, a hare and a tortoise decided to run a race. The hare, which by nature was swifter, was not only snobbish, but also very presumptuous. Both started the race at the same time. The hare ran fast and in the midway, turned back to see how its competitor was progressing – the tortoise was way behind. Meanwhile, the hare thought of taking a nap before the tortoise caught up with it in the race. The tortoise was working up slowly but steadily towards its goal. When the tortoise reached the finishing line, suddenly the hare woke up and tried to finish the race, but it was too late. The tortoise had won the race. —The moral of the story is “You snooze, you lose!” In other words, “Constant preparedness is the key to successes.” This is not only true in the mundane life, but also true in the spiritual sphere. In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches that eternal preparedness is the price of salvation. Every disciple of Jesus must be ever prepared to meet the Lord—whenever He may come. (John’s Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/
19) “Let us trim our lamps and fill them with charity in silence.” When Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and author died in 1968, he left behind a literary legacy which has continued to feed the spiritual hungers and prod the social and political consciences of believer to this day. Merton’s death, by accidental electrocution, while attending a conference of Buddhist and Catholic monks in Bangkok, Thailand, was unexpected and untimely. Nevertheless, there is little doubt that Merton was prepared, like the wise virgins in today’s Gospel, to meet the Lord. In one of his best-known books, No Man Is An Island, the holy monk wrote: “We must learn during our lifetime to trim our lamps and fill them with charity in silence. . . if the spirit that kept the flame of physical life burning in our bodies took care to nourish itself with the oil that is found only in the silence of God’s charity, then when the body dies, the spirit itself goes on burning with the same oil, its own flame. But if the spirit has burned all along with the base oils of passion or egoism, or pride, then when death comes, the flame of the spirit goes out with the light of the body because there is no more oil in the lamp.”(Patricia Datchuck Sánchez). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
20) This guy got the job! Several years ago, a Fortune 500 company advertised in the New York Times to fill a vacancy in its sales force. They received an application unlike any other. This particular job-seeker wrote: “I am at present selling furniture at the address listed below. You may judge my ability as a salesman if you will stop in to see me at any time, pretending that you are interested in buying furniture. When you come in, you can identify me by my red hair. I will have no way of identifying you. Such salesmanship as I exhibit during your visit, therefore, will be no more than my usual workday efforts and not a special attempt to impress a prospective employer.” From among more than 1500 applicants, this guy got the job! So how do you keep plenty of oil in your lamp? (http://frtonyshomilies.com/ )
21) “Don’t forget nothing!” I spent 25 years in the Army; do you know the difference between the Army and the Boy Scouts? The Scouts have adult leadership! When I was stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland, I was assigned to a battalion that had 24 hours to be alerted and arrive at any location ready to fight. We were called a Rapid Deployment Force. We would conduct random EDREs—Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercises. We’d get a call, usually in the middle of the night (at 0-dark-thirty), and we’d have to scramble to get on our uniforms and equipment, our weapons, dispatch our vehicles, and be ready to roll! We were in a constant state of readiness. I kept my duffle bag and chaplain kit ready to grab-and-go at all times. When I was called on to deploy to Desert Storm, I had 5 days to get from Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to Fort Knox, Kentucky (where I was issued desert gear) to Saudi Arabia. And I did it! The US Army Rangers also have a motto, like the Scouts. Theirs is simply: “Don’t forget nothing!” (Rev. Robert Leroe). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/
22) Staying Awake: In his autobiography, Report to Greco, Nikos Kazantzakis recounts a conversation he once had with an old monk. Kazantzakis, a young man at the time, was visiting a monastery and was very taken by a famed ascetic, Father Makarios, who lived there. But a series of visits with the old monk left him with some ambivalent feelings as well. The monk’s austere lifestyle stirred a certain religious romanticism in Kazantzakis, but it repelled him too; he wanted the romanticism, but in a more-palatable way. Here’s their conversation as Kazantzakis records it: Yours is a hard life, Father. I too want to be saved. Is there no other way?” “More agreeable?” asked the ascetic, smiling compassionately. “More human, Father.” “One, only one.” “What is that?” “Ascent. To climb a series of steps. From the full stomach to hunger, from the slaked throat to thirst, from joy to suffering. God sits at the summit of hunger, thirst, and suffering; the devil sits at the summit of the comfortable life. Choose.” “I am still young. The world is nice. I have time to choose.” Reaching out, the old monk touched my knee and said: “Wake up, my child. Wake up before death wakes you up.” I shuddered and said: “I am still young.” “Death loves the young,” the old man replied. “The inferno loves the young. Life is like a lighted candle, easily extinguished. Take care—wake up! Wake up! Wake up before death wakes you up. “ — In a less dramatic expression that’s a virtual leitmotif in the Gospels. (Fr. Ron Rolheiser). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/ )
23) With the Lord unceasingly: Robert Bolt, the British playwright, did justice to Sir Thomas More in a heroic drama about his life, appropriately named A Man for All Seasons. Surely Thomas’ greatest season was when he stood trial for treason against Henry VIII for allegedly denying to the King his claim to be head of the Church of England. Although he, indeed, held that view, More, as the “King’s good servant,” had been careful to make no public statement on the matter. Like a good lawyer he demanded that the court prove its case against him. Of course, the court intended to condemn him anyhow, proof or no proof. Once the judgment had been given, St. Thomas More felt free to state his belief. He denied that “a temporal lord could or ought to be head of the spirituality.” Yet he held no grudge against those who had sentenced him to death for this Catholic principle. St. Paul, he reminded the tribunal, had originally persecuted the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen; but Paul had subsequently become a Christian and joined Stephen in the ranks of the martyrs. Now he prayed that he and his judges would share the joys of eternal life: “I verily trust, and shall therefore right heartily pray, that though your lordships have now here on earth been judges of my condemnation, we may yet hereafter in Heaven merrily all meet together to everlasting salvation.” “We shall be with the Lord unceasingly. Console one another with this message.” (I Thessalonians, 4:17b-18. Today’s second reading). (Father Robert F. McNamara). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
24) “Be prepared”: Memories are short! “Aw, we don’t have to worry about this hurricane. We’ve lived through a lot of them, and none of them have been as bad as this one is predicted to become. Don’t worry about it.” There are a lot of other stories: “Aw, don’t worry about gas or food. As soon as the storm passes over, we’ll go down to the grocery store and replenish our shelves… There is always a lot of gas and food…” Or, how about this one: “A flood? Here? Not a chance… A tornado hit us? Here? Not a chance…” There is something prophetic about the decades-old Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared.” A lot of people pooh-pooh that motto, believing that they are immune to disaster. They prefer to believe in the magical tooth fairy. As we approach the end of the liturgical year, the readings begin to zero in on the themes of death, judgment, and the final coming of the Lord. We have been waiting two thousand years, and some folks think that he will come within the next few years. Today’s parable reminds us that “we know neither the day nor the hour,” so we have to be prepared for the long haul. In fact, the Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared” is a good summary of the Gospel message. — The ten bridesmaids are symbolic of the human race. Some are foolish, so used to instant coffee and microwave dinners that they expect instant salvation as well. Others, the truly wise, know that the bridegroom, The Lord’s, arrival may be delayed, and they are prepared to deal with that situation. They know that eventually time and the oil will run out, so they make sure they keep their spiritual backup ready.(Bishop Clarke). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
25) “Take this staff with you.” There is an old story of a jester who sometimes made very wise utterances. One day, the jester had said something so foolish that the king, handing him a staff, said to him, “Take this, and keep it till you find a bigger fool than yourself.” Some years later, the king was very ill, and lay on his deathbed. His courtiers were called; his family and his servants also stood round his bedside. The king, addressing them, said, “I am about to leave you. I am going on a very long journey, and I shall not return again to this place: so I have called you all to say ‘Goodbye’.” Then his jester stepped forward and, addressing the king, said, “Your Majesty, may I ask a question? When you journeyed abroad visiting your people, staying with your nobles, or paying diplomatic visits to other courts, your heralds and servants always went before you, making preparations for you. May I ask what preparations your Majesty has made for this long journey that he is about to take?” “Alas!” replied the king, “I have made no preparations.” “Then,” said the jester, “take this staff with you, for now I have found a bigger fool than myself.” (Fr. Lakra). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) (L/20)
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 58) by Fr. Tony: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit my website by clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at email@example.com. Visit https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies under CBCI or Fr. Tony for my website version. (Special thanks to Vatican Radio website- http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html -which completed uploading my Cycle A, B and C homilies in May 2020) Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604