32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

In keeping with an ancient literary device, frequently employed by teachers of Jesus' era, the story, told with all of its details, was of little significance except as a vehicle. In other words, as long as the story served to illustrate the point being made, there was no real need for it to fit together very tightly.

The first verses of chapter 25 in Matthew's Gospel recall such a story as told by Jesus. He spoke of several young girls who were to be the bridesmaids at a local wedding. According to custom, the bride waited at home with her attendants until the groom came to escort her to her new home for their reception. Now, the groom, followed by his cronies, usually made a few stops for courage en route and so his estimated time of arrival was often out by several hours.

The more experienced among the bridesmaids came prepared for long delays. Thus some had extra lamp fuel and others did not.

At about this stage in the story we begin to be distracted because the narrative suddenly switches to the lesson and in the process, the details of the story are manipulated to suit that primary purpose. We have, for example, an oil merchant expected to be open for business long after midnight. The doors at the scene of a wedding reception are inexplicably locked and the groom claims not to know his bride's closest friends. That they in turn appeal to him with the words, "Lord! Lord!" confirms that, as far as Jesus was concerned, the "wedding" image had served its purpose. In fact, the transition had already taken place wherein He was to be recognized as the bridegroom and we the bridesmaids with all of our strengths and weaknesses. For the truth is that we are all, at one time or another, both wise and foolish. Sometimes we remember and sometimes we forget.

Almost every Sunday we proclaim what we call the mystery of our faith in these words: "Christ has died"...no problem, "Christ is risen"...that's o.k., that's Easter, "Christ will come again." Most of us are not quite so comfortable with that one! Because, in a way, His coming signals our going. His coming means, "Time is up...ready or NOT!"

We have come to dread situations like that. When we are half way through an exam and we are running out of time. When we plan to pull out of the market but hang on too long for that extra point or two. When we put off sharing a vacation with those we love because we are too busy, and then sickness or death makes it all academic. When we put off making that difficult Sacramental Confession and the consequent changes in our life-style. TIME'S UP! The wise are never surprised by those words. The foolish are always surprised by them. Sometimes we are wise. Sometimes we are foolish.

Christ will come again. He will come to judge the living and the dead. Sometimes we remember. Sometimes we forget. Sometimes we are wise. Sometimes we are very, very foolish.

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