The 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time at St Mark the Evangelist Church in Norman, OK
November 11, 2002
Wisdom 6:12-16 + 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 + Matthew 25:1-13
In the next three weeks we proclaim the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew. This chapter is the end of the public teaching of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel, and it provides his final instruction about discipleship during this time before his return. It becomes an extended meditation on discipleship, and the church leads us in that meditation with some clues from the Old Testament that help with these verses today. Following that clue, the writer of our first reading today gives us the focus for reflecting on this Gospel. We are easily distracted by details of the story, and it is easy to be troubled by those who will not share what they seem to possess. Great sermons have been preached about staying awake, but all of them fall asleep. It is not the foolish ones who serve as model for disciples, but the others, called “Wise.” The oil they do not share may well be something they cannot share, and once we let go of the words literally, we are free to move into the Life this Word of God can give. The Life of a disciple of Jesus is filled with Wisdom, and the author insists that those who seek it will find it.
Biblical “Wisdom” is an attribute of God, and attribute that “Godly” people may possess if they find it. In behavior it shows itself as Prudence, which is the behavior often used to describe these wise “virgins” of the Gospel story. The Prudent are those who seek the best way of doing things. They are those who look ahead, who look around, who live for more than the moment. The point with Prudence is the doing. This is a quality of action, an element of decision, a way of life that is responsible and accountable. Those who lack Prudence are negligent, procrastinate, hesitant and inconsistent. They rationalize and blame and expect others to bail them out like those in the Gospel story whose lamps go out. They are left to live in the darkness. We will never learn from this story whether the foolish found any oil. What we do know is that when they returned, it was too late. Works of love and mercy cannot be shared. They are the results of Wisdom in a Prudent Life.
The Prudent are people of action; wise, accountable, and reasonable. They are disciples of Jesus Christ, and they know what to do with their lives while they wait for his return.