HOMILY FOR THE 32ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Readings: Wis. 6:12-16/1 Thes. 4:13-18
Gospel: Mt. 25:1-13
For those of us who are inadvertent Church geeks, I ran across an article regarding a homily Pope Francis gave a week ago. One of the changes in the Mass was a phrase that we hear during the Eucharistic Prayer. The phrase, which is said at the consecration, was previously read as “Which will be shed for you, and FOR ALL, for the forgiveness of sins.” Now, the phrase is “Which will be shed for you, and FOR MANY, for the forgiveness of sins.” Now that change caused a bit of concern for the Church geeks in that it gave the impression that the Church was not as welcoming a place as we know it is.
At the homily, Francis said that he agreed with the current phrase, like his predecessor, Benedict, because of the significance of how we should live our lives on earth so that at the time of judgement, we can be with God in Paradise. “The ‘many,’” says Francis, “who will rise for eternal life are to be understood as the ‘many’ for whom the blood of Christ was shed. They are the multitude that, thanks to the goodness and mercy of God, can experience the life that does not pass away, the complete victory over death brought by the resurrection.”
When this article came online, I had been thinking about the retreat I just returned from at St. Meinrad Monastery in Southern Indiana. That is a place where one can just sit alone with their thoughts and get a better grasp of what God wants us to know about Him and His creation. In looking through the readings at Mass, I could not help but to contemplate the soul and how it is a receptacle of whom we are as a person. The more we focus on the soul, the more we are prepared to meet Christ. The less we focus on the soul, the less prepared we are to meet Christ. When we care for our soul, the soul begins to grow inside of us so much so that what we do is no longer for our self-interests, but for the interests of our brothers and sisters in Christ; which in turn places our focus on God Himself, which is where He wants our focus to be.
As I began reading, I saw that Christ was trying to prepare us in order that we able to care for our souls. That preparation starts with the understanding that, while we at times are placed in a position of power, we have to remember that we should not require others to do something that we would not do ourselves. In last week’s Gospel (Mt. 23:1-12) Jesus understood those who are in power can sometimes use that power to keep others down. And to prove their importance, they-and those who aspire to be like them-will make a show of their importance to the world around them. When we see that in today’s world, we have the tendency to dismiss everything they say and do because of what we see as hypocrisy.
Yet despite all that, Jesus reminds us that because they are sitting on the chair of Moses-the seat of power-they are the final authority. We have to listen to what they say and observe the laws they pass. We may not like them, but until someone else is in charge, we have to follow then because the office is more important than the person who is in it, whether we like it or not. The more we understand that when it is our turn, the better we will fit the post, the better the work will be and the better those in our care will understand and follow the rules that are handed down. Our soul yearns to be closer to God each and every day. Listening to His law regardless of how we hear it keeps our soul moving in the right direction.
Most of the time, we listen and understand what God wants us to do day in and day out. We get up, go to work or school, enjoy the time we have with friends and family and even go out once in a while to celebrate the wonders of God’s creation. Eventually, we get to the point where our faith becomes second nature to us and we feel God’s presence each time we take a breath. We don’t think about keeping our focus to God because we think we always have.
Yet every once in a while, when we least expect it, we lose focus and forget what is best for our soul. We coast through life thinking we are in good shape only to find out that what we have done is not enough. We think that it is, but over time what faith we have slowly goes away for one reason or another and when we see the end of our journey; we find we don’t have enough to reach it. In today’s Gospel, Jesus warns us to always be focused on what our souls require to enter into Paradise. Ten virgins are assigned to escort the bridegroom into the wedding feast. While all ten appeared to be prepared, only five of them were. The other five looked ok, but the lamps that each one carried did not have enough oil to stay lit until he arrived. When he did come, those who had enough oil went out to greet him while the others scrambled around town in a vain attempt to get enough oil at the last minute. When they finally returned, the doors were closed and no one, not even the bridegroom, would let them into the feast. Had they prepared like the other five, they would have entered the feast like they were assigned.
When we understand and listen to God’s message, the burden that He places on our shoulders are not as difficult as we might think. The First Reading today from the Book of Wisdom speaks to us how His message appears to us and how it is ready to be a part of our lives. “Resplendent and unfading is wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her.” Notice the author describes wisdom as a person, using the female pronoun.
The Greek word for “Wisdom” is “Sophia.” The Greeks viewed all knowledge as being alive. It is not a random concept. Wisdom is a living and breathing entity like anyone else on this planet. The reading continues that “she hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire” and “whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed.” Where can we find Sophia? Right where we expect her to be: sitting by the gate of God. As we seek her out, she comes to us when we need her and brings to us the prudence necessary to go through this world with as little difficulty as possible. It does take time, but once Sophia becomes part of our lives, we have her with us until we enter into paradise.
Our souls desire to be closer to God. Christ understood that and wanted to give the wisdom that he had to anyone who would come to him. During the Mass on All Souls Day, Jesus tells the crowd that he “came down from heaven not to do (his) own will but the will of the one who sent me.” That is Wisdom. That is Sophia. He gives her to the crowds so that “everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life…” (Jn. 6:37-40). Having the wisdom of God feeds our souls with the nourishment it needs to finish our journey, the oil in our lamps to stay vigilant for the bridegroom and the foresight to understand that any authority that is given can be taken away just as quick.
When Pope Francis spoke about the difference between “for all” and “for many”, it was this sense of wisdom that we all have for us to be the many to enter paradise. In fact, Francis said that the phrase “for many” is the better phrase because it means that we have to make those choices here on earth to listen to the wisdom of God-to follow Sophia-or not and be prepared to live an eternity apart from God. My only suggestion is that, if and when the bishops look at this translation once more, they take the phrase “for many” and make it into “for THE many.” That would make the phrase “Which will be poured out for you and FOR THE MANY for the forgiveness of sins.” It makes the phrase more in the spirit of what Francis (and Benedict) was implying for this translation. That would make what we do in the first part of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word, more of a conversation with Sophia rather than an obligation of doctrine. The souls of the living and the dead need want and desire Sophia, the wisdom of God. When we achieve that, then we can enter into the feast that has been prepared FOR THE MANY.
MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK
Questions for Reflection:
- Are you a “Church Geek?” What makes you say that? What other things do you “Geek out” about?
- What are some ways that you seem like the 5 wise virgins? The 5 foolish ones? How do you know the difference?
- In some cultures, “Sophia” (wisdom) is identified as an actual person or a deity. In what way to you view “Sophia?” Is it a person? Is it an idea? Is it a destination? Is “Sophia” continual or is there an end?
 San Martin, Ines. Pope Francis sides with Benedict, says Christ shed his blood “for many” Crux (November 3, 2017) https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2017/11/03/pope-francis-sides-benedict-says-christ-shed-blood-many/