Resplendent and unfading is wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire; whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed, for he shall find her sitting by his gate. For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence, and whoever for her sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care; because she makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her, and graciously appears to them in the ways, and meets them with all solicitude.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
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. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep. Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep. For 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, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, console one another with these words.
Gospel Cycle Cycle A
Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Two aspects of these readings for today draw our attention immediately. First, am I really searching for wisdom in my life? Second, am I alert to the presence of God and wait on that presence?
True wisdom is a way of leading a good life that is centered on the divine. Wisdom cannot be confused with knowledge. There are lots of people in our world who have degrees and incredible amounts of intellectual information—but who don’t know how to live at all! Wisdom is a gift of knowing how to live well and to live in the divine.
We can only have wisdom if we ask for wisdom and seek to live from wisdom every day. Most of us don’t do that! We want wisdom when we are stuck in difficult situations but in general we live from our own resources without paying attention to what God might want or to what really good people have advised. Part of the teaching of the Book of Wisdom is that we must learn how to listen to others and to listen to what God is saying.
The Gospel tells us to be alert, waiting for God. As we come close to the end of Ordinary Time, the readings continue to focus our thoughts and feelings on the end of time. Most of us don’t seriously think that we might die tonight or probably even in the immediately future—although some who read this may be facing death. Most of us act on the assumption that tomorrow we will still be alive.
Saint Benedict in his Rule for Monks wants monks to think every day about death: Keep death daily before your eyes. This is part of a wisdom tradition. If we realize that this might be our last day, we generally will try to make good decisions about how we are living—not even necessarily from fear but because we want to die well.
The wise virgins and the foolish ones are only symbols of the way that we should want to live. We want to be like the wise virgins, ready at all times to respond to what is happening in the best possible way.
What do we do when we discover that we are much more like the foolish virgins? Then we must begin to ask God to change us! We must beg for the gift of wisdom. We must ask each day that we will be alert to the divine that surrounds us. We must ask Jesus Himself for this gift and know that He will give it to us if we are consistent in our asking. We must learn to stop for a moment and realize that we dwell in the divine and that the Holy Trinity dwells in us—so we only need ask for help and strive to do the best we can.
So often, like the foolish virgins, we think that we can always borrow from others. But spirituality is not like that. We must have our own and must live our spirituality with vigor. No one can live our lives for us!
So let us ask today for this gift of wisdom! Let us ask that God will answer our prayers! And let us do now that which will profit us for eternity.