A reading from the Book of Wisdom
No one knows who the author of the Book of Wisdom was or if there were several authors. We do know that it was written in Greek, only about 50 years before the birth of Jesus, for the Jewish community in Alexandria to give them hope in the midst of persecution.
Wisdom is portrayed as a woman, a God-like figure giving advice and comfort to the people. “Resplendent and unfading is wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her.”
We all need wisdom that goes beyond mere knowledge of facts into a deeper level of knowing. We often refer to this special level of wisdom when we say, “She was very wise for her age.” “He is a wise old soul.” Wisdom is a gift that comes to us at different times and from many sources. Do you believe in your own wisdom? How does it help you at important times in your life? From whom do you seek wisdom? Who are your go-to wisdom sources, not necessarily the most knowledgeable people, but folks who have life-teaching wisdom? Do you pray for wisdom, especially during difficult times or in situations that call for you to make hard decisions? The Holy Spirit within you will answer those prayers. Wisdom is never far away if you seek it with an open heart.
(Psalm 63:2, 3-4,, 5-6, 7-8)
“My soul is thirsting for you my God…. For you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.” The author of the psalm lived in a desert area where water was both a necessity and a gift. Thirsting for God was an expression that every desert person could identify with.
Think of a time when you were really thirsty. How did it feel, and how did it feel when you finally had that drink of water? Your soul and mine thirst for God, but we don’t always realize it until we are in need or when we are struck by the awesomeness of creation or the challenges of our lives.
A reading from St. Paul's First Letter to the Thessalonians
We Christians believe in a life after death. Paul did, and here he wants to say it clearly to his beloved people, the Thessalonians. “We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve, like the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”
It is a great blessing to believe that our loved ones are alive in the peace and loving embrace of God, that they have been forgiven, healed, and now live again. Do you believe that for them and for yourself? Do you truly believe that heaven is not some dream or something made up but rather a new level of reality for all of us, no matter who we are? We cannot gain heaven by our deeds alone. It is a gift that God offers to us and, like all gifts, we need to accept it and live our life here in gratitude for it.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew
There are many and varied views as to who these foolish and wise virgins are supposed to represent. The theme that most scholars agree on is the need to be vigilant, not to take anything for granted, to stay on the right course, to keep faith in the midst of challenges to health, loss of loved ones, and declining power. We never know when we will be called, but we do know that the call is from our loving God who will embrace us if we have been faithful to him.
Painting: Wise and Foolish Virgins, William Blake. c. 1826. Tate Collection, London. Public domain.
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved. The passage regarding the wedding garment is from The New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved.
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.