First reading Wisdom 6:12-16
Wisdom is found by those who look for her
Wisdom is bright, and does not grow dim.
By those who love her she is readily seen,
and found by those who look for her.
Quick to anticipate those who desire her, she makes herself known to them.
Watch for her early and you will have no trouble;
you will find her sitting at your gates.
Even to think about her is understanding fully grown;
be on the alert for her and anxiety will quickly leave you.
She herself walks about looking for those who are worthy of her
and graciously shows herself to them as they go,
in every thought of theirs coming to meet them.
Responsorial Psalm 62(63):2-8
For you my soul is thirsting, O God, my God.
O God, you are my God, for you I long;
for you my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you
like a dry, weary land without water.
So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory.
For your love is better than life,
my lips will speak your praise.
So I will bless you all my life,
in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul shall be filled as with a banquet,
my mouth shall praise you with joy.
On my bed I remember you.
On you I muse through the night
for you have been my help;
in the shadow of your wings I rejoice.
Second reading 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Do not grieve about those who have died in Jesus
We want you to be quite certain, brothers, about those who have died, to make sure that you do not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus: God will bring them with him. We can tell you this from the Lord’s own teaching, that any of us who are left alive until the Lord’s coming will not have any advantage over those who have died. At the trumpet of God, the voice of the archangel will call out the command and the Lord himself will come down from heaven; those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and then those of us who are still alive will be taken up in the clouds, together with them; to meet the Lord in the air. So we shall stay with the Lord for ever. With such thoughts as these you should comfort one another.
Gospel Matthew 25:1-13
The wise and foolish virgins
Jesus told this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven will be like this: Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were sensible: the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps.
The bridegroom was late, and they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. But at midnight there was a cry, “The bridegroom is here! Go out and meet him.” At this, all those bridesmaids woke up and trimmed their lamps, and the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, “Give us some of your oil: our lamps are going out.” But they replied, “There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves.” They had gone off to buy it when the bridegroom arrived.
Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding hall and the door was closed. The other bridesmaids arrived later. “Lord, Lord,” they said “open the door for us.” But he replied, “I tell you solemnly, I do not know you.” So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.’
Saint Paul speaks about the Coming of the Lord in traditional dramatic imagery including the blasting of trumpets and the thundering voice of an archangel.
In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks in terms of a marriage feast and warns us to be ready ‘for you do not know either the day or the hour’ (Matthew 25:13). When we get behind the imagery, what do we mean when we say that we believe that Jesus is coming again in glory?
Of course we cannot accurately describe paradise. To do so we would have to describe God. That is why the Scriptures have recourse to dramatic images, such as that of the marriage banquet used by Jesus in today’s Gospel. We cannot accurately describe God, for, as the Beloved disciple reminds us, ‘no one has ever seen God’ (John 1:18).
So when we look forward to the coming of Jesus, we are thinking of the personal encounter at the time of our death. But there is more to it than that. Our hope is not just a personal one.
We believe that the whole of creation is meant to reveal the glory of God, and so we look forward to history reaching its goal when all evil will be conquered and creation will be what God wants it to be, full of the glory of God.
When we declare our faith in this final coming of the Lord Jesus, we are asserting that Jesus came into this world through the Incarnation to renew the whole of the cosmos and the whole of human history.
This hope is not meant to distract us from the human project made possible through the gracious love of Jesus. For Jesus is calling each of us to an ever deeper communion with God. We are called, in other words, to holiness.
This is Paul’s prayer a few verses prior to today’s reading: ‘May he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints’ (1Thessalonians 3:13).
All this is most beautifully expressed here in our Sunday Eucharist. Here we are in the closest communion with Jesus. Here we are in the closest communion with those who have gone before us and are being purified by God’s love to prepare them for the fullness of eternal glory.
Fr Michael Fallon msc