November 6, 2011
Readings for Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time: Wisdom 6:12-16; 1 Thes 4:13-18; Mt 25:1-3
I remember clearly the time leading up to my ordination to the priesthood and the celebration of my first Mass as a priest. It was a time of great anticipation and preparation. Much like a bride preparing for her wedding there were the preparations of receptions, rehearsals, invitations, photographers...As a group we went on a weeklong retreat and I spent the night before my ordination at a Hotel across the street from the Cathedral with great anticipation of the coming day. There was great joy and eagerness in my heart as I waited for this day that I had been preparing for since I first entered the seminary twelve years earlier. I was very ready and very eager for the day to arrive.
Joyful anticipation inspires us to be prepared. A bride and groom joyfully prepare for their wedding date. A mother and father anticipate and prepare for the birth of a child doing all that they can to prepare a place for their child to come into their home. A little child stays up all night anticipating their birthday or Christmas. An athlete works hard preparing for a big game. A young lady and young man dress up and anticipate a dance or their first date. Life is full of preparing with joyful anticipation for those special moments.
Today's Gospel reminds us that it is with joyful anticipation that we should be preparing for the coming of the Lord, the kingdom of God. The Gospel has ten virgins each awaiting the bridegroom. These are not bridesmaids; these are each brides awaiting their groom, a perfect number of ten in an imperfect world where not all will anticipate their Lord's arrival. The five that will keep oil in their lamps will be ready when at the darkest moment of the night the bridegroom arrives.
If we are called to be like one of the young ladies awaiting the arrival of the groom, the question is "How do we keep oil in our lamp in anticipation of His arrival?" The answer is, if we have to ask the question, we will never be ready! The joyful love of anticipation does not come with action, it comes from somewhere inside us, a deep desire that cannot be explained, it can only be felt. This is the joy that is expressed by a wife and mother who prepares a lunch for her children and a dinner for her husband. It is the joy of a husband who buys flowers for his wife on the way home from work, just because! These are joys and loves expressed, but there is a burning heart behind these loves that inspires us to action.
In our Christian faith this is expressed by the activity of daily living out our Christian values. But it comes from a burning love we have for our Lord. This is a love that we nourish over a life time through our daily prayer, our receiving the Eucharist, sharing in the sacramental life of the Church and spending time in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. It is from the love with which we live out our faith. Our actions sprout from our faith, we cannot have one without the other. Pete Kreeft in his book Back to Virtue, (available in our bookstore) says that the "Same living water of God's own Sprit, God's own life in our soul, is received by faith and lived out by our virtuous works." One flows from the other.
Today during our Annual Christian Care Brunch and Ministry Sunday we honor all those who represent us by daily feeding the poor. Why do we feed the poor? For the same reason we feed our family.These are not actions that we need to complete, they come from the heart. We love and we desire to express our love through our service to one another. For this reason we share our faith with our children, we bring the Eucharist to the poor, we open wide the doors of faith to the mariners who come to our port, we work to provide articles of faith to those in need. We live out our Christian life in joyful anticipation for the coming of the Kingdom of God.
We keep our flasks of oil ready for the coming of the Lord by daily living virtuous lives. There is nothing that we can do at the last minute. We cannot run to the store and buy our way to heaven. The consumer society cannot provide for us what we need for a happy life. A man with a violin case under his arm stood in Times Square looking lost. He asked a policeman, "How can I get to Carnegie Hall?" The policeman answered, "Practice, man, practice." How do we get to heaven? Practice, practice, practice!
In a letter to his son, the great Confederate General Robert E. Lee told the story of the Connecticut legislature while in session on a day of remarkable gloom and darkness when all the light of the sun was slowly extinguished as if by an eclipse. Members of the legislature wanted to adjourn out of fear until an Old Puritan legislator, Davenport, of Stamford said that "if the last day had come, he desired to be found at his place doing his duty." Let that be us, living our faith, keeping the oil ready in our lamps with joyful anticipation for the coming of our Lord. Please join us at the Christian Care Brunch and Ministry Sunday this morning in the Auditorium.
There will be no Monday night Church History Class for the next two weeks. This Monday Fr. Brian and I will be giving a presentation in the Church on the Revision of the Liturgy and the following Monday I will be with my prayer group. We will be repeating the session on the Revision of the Liturgy on Thursday, November 10.
We are looking for bids for a company who can meet the technicalsupport needs of our parish offices. Please call the office if you are or know someone who may be interested.
Father John Provenza