Just a word… Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time…

Just a word… Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time… November 8, 2020

Did you ever wonder where the bride is among all these virgins Matthew refers to? And why the groom is so late in coming to the feast? And where exactly are the so-called foolish bridesmaids to go to buy more oil at midnight? I don’t believe ancient Palestine had 24 hour 711s on every cor- ner. And, how are we to square the shocking exclusion of half the bridesmaids with the mercy and plethora of chances we see in Jesus in other Gospels? Hearing this story again this Sunday raises these questions and more.

Improbabilities such as these can lead one to speculate that the subject Matthew is broach- ing has little to do with actual oil and lamps, but is a metaphor for the need to pay attention, to wake up, to be prepared. Remember, Jesus is near the end of his ministry and soon will not be available to his disciples in human form. Perhaps his followers were losing heart, feeling that de- spite his promises, Jesus just might not be coming back. What were they to do then, when they had placed their hopes and faith in him? It occurs to me that this parable might have been meant to prompt the disciples into living in the light of doing God’s work until Jesus returns, however long that might be, trusting that the Kingdom the Master tried to teach them was real and would eventu- ally come to pass. This parable can also be viewed as a story of hope, of the possibility of change.

The foolish, though unprepared, did not enjoy that feast, but they weren’t condemned; they were simply chastised a little. In all probability they were provided other opportunities to shine.

But what does the oil represent? I am reminded of a 1947 classic movie entitled, “The Bish- op’s Wife.” Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven starred, with a supporting actor named Monty Woolley, who played an older professor. The professor had procrastinated for many years in the writing of his book and was unable to get out of his own way. He was frustrated and about to give up. As the story progresses, the professor is gifted with a decanter of sherry that inexplicably refills itself, never running dry, never intoxicating, but offering such inspiration that he is able to write his book. In the Gospel of the Samaritan Woman at the Well we hear Jesus speak of springs of living water, that never run dry, but bubble up like a never ending stream of life.

Perhaps the oil of which Jesus speaks is the faith we show when we cultivate a willingness to seek God in the unexpected people and places we encounter, where God chooses to be known.

Perhaps it is the hope that we possess, even when things look the darkest, that the light will prevail. Or just maybe, it’s the love that we show when we finally recognize that each person is our sibling, that the earth is ours to cherish and preserve, and that we have a personal and corporate responsi- bility to one another.

Even the finest lamp oil will be diminished as it burns. But these three qualities remain;

faith, hope and love…and when nourished at the table and in the vineyard of the Lord, they never run dry.

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