•Wisdom 6: 12-16 * I Thessalonians 4: 13-18 * Matthew 25
Please note: the readings listed on the USCCB website are different for this Sunday than what Fr. Jim has chosen to use. You will once again need to thumb through the Bible. It is the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, but the USCCB has chosen to use those readings for Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome.
In October I spent two weeks traveling in Turkey with twelve strangers. The modern nation of Turkey was established after the First World War. It is a beautiful country, much of it like Western Montana. People everywhere reached out with a sincere — “welcome.”
I found significant similarities between Turkey and the United States. First of all both claim a religious identity and both are “secular” nations.
The dominant religion in Turkey is Islam and many women, both young and old, keep their hair covered in public. There are mosques everywhere. The Muezzin’s call to prayer echoes across the land five times every day. He calls the people to prayer “in The Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful,” Several folks told me that the majority of Turkish people seldom go to the mosque and most do not respond to the Muezzin’s call. While Turkey claims to be Islamic, the dominant culture shaping and expressing the life of most Turks is “secular.”
The dominant religion in the United States is “Christianity.” Christmas, Easter and other customs are still observed. There are churches everywhere. However the majority of our peers seldom go to the church and apparently the number of those with a consistent prayer life is on the decline. While we Americans claim to be Christian, the dominant culture shaping and expressing the life of most of us is “secular.”
Today we heard the parable about “the ten bridesmaids.” I share this comparison between Turkey and the United States because it influences my reflection on this parable.
Most Scripture Scholars agree that Matthew wrote his gospel at a critical time for his community. His peers expected the Risen Christ to return in their lifetime. This did not happen and their enthusiasm and commitment wavered. With this parable Matthew hoped to rekindle and reawaken their faith.
Apparently in his community many called themselves “Christians” or followers of Jesus but never engaged themselves in the project that Jesus had set in motion. They heard the stories and the words attributed to Jesus, but were more concerned about their life insurance or retirement funds than about “the new reality” Jesus was calling forth.
There always have been some within the Christian community who are self-centered and never understand the meaning of the gospel — “the foolish bridesmaids.” We could focus on them but it is more important to focus on “the wise bridesmaids.” That is where we find the Good News.
To bring an oil supply is to persist in the challenge of becoming more fully human. To be fully human is to love without condition! Those who do so are ready to go “into the wedding banquet.”
Unconditional love implies many things. For example it means being sensitive and responsive to the pain of others. It means struggling for a better, freer world. It means bringing peoples together and fostering community. It means listening to others when they share their stories, struggles, dreams and hopes. It means valuing and respecting people with all of their diversity. None of that is easy, especially in dominant cultures that are so thoroughly secular.
In Turkey I traveled with twelve strangers. They were good people but our values, interests and perspectives often differed. This provided me opportunities to love without condition. I do consciously try to do so. Yet every night in the quiet of my room, I recognized that more often than I want to admit, I came up short. I share this to encourage you in your efforts to be among those ready “to enter the wedding banquet.” Our limitations and shortcomings do not place us among “the foolish.” Engaging in the struggle for a more human world for all people requires a deep commitment to love without condition. Even if we sometimes come up short, persistence is an integral part of becoming more fully human