Sunday, November 6, 2011

Oil Lamps

32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time Cycle A 2011

Today’s readings for the 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time begin to urge us to prepare for the end of the Church year and the great understated feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King.  As we set our clocks back and check our smoke alarm batteries this Sunday, are we checking the oil in our lamps of faith? 
Generally speaking, Advent and Lent are the two liturgical seasons when we are told every week to repent and prepare; to reevaluate and renew.  In Advent we recall the patience of the Jewish people as they looked forward to a Messiah and God’s answer to their prayers by sending Jesus to us, through Mary’s yes.  In two weeks we will confess this in a new translation of the Creed that says: “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages.  God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made,consubstantial with the Father;  through him all things were made.  For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”  This is central to our faith, so we have a season to prepare for it and a season to celebrate it.
In Lent, we commemorate the life of Jesus and his Passion, Death and Resurrection.  In the revised Creed we will again confess “For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”  Once again, we have a central reality of our faith that has a season to prepare and a season to celebrate the greatness of God’s love.
These four seasons, Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter, call us to remember past events though, while these next few weeks, and today’s Gospel about the ten virgins and their oil lamps, actually call us to repent and prepare for something that has not yet occurred!  Christ’s second coming,  what for us is similar to the Jewish people’s patient watch for the Messiah, this very real event is lost amidst Thanksgiving and Christmas excitement and the label of Ordinary Time.
Our new translation of the Creed emphasizes our need for anticipation and expectation.  We now say that “we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”  This sounds as if we lost the resurrection or perhaps a statement fit for Halloween and looking for lost goblins and zombies trick or treating.  Our faith is clearer than that and in a few weeks we will say “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” 
I think the five foolish virgins would have professed our current translation.  “We look for the resurrection of the dead.”  They did not take individual responsibility for being prepared for the coming of the bridegroom.  They tried to take the wise virgins oil instead.  And then they went searching for their missing oil, they went searching for the resurrection, instead of being prepared to welcome it when it came to them. 
We are invited to say I.  I believe in one God;  I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ;  I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life;  I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church;  And I look forward to the resurrection.  And along with this, you and I are invited to do much more than look.  You and I are invited to live this anticipation and expectation.  The reason the Creed only has one line about looking forward to the resurrection of the dead is that it has not happened.  You and I are responsible for writing the rest of that belief by our actions. 
Let’s live in such a manner so that when Jesus arrives and we are faced with the four final things of death, judgment, heaven, hell; the oil of our lamp of faith will be brightly burning and leading us to the life of the world to come.  And maybe one day, we will get an extra liturgical season to prepare for this great truth of our faith.  Blessed be God forever.  Amen.

Wisdom 6:12-16; Psalm 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13

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