We celebrate on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. Most of us will gather with family and/or friends and share a meal and company. In the midst of all our celebrations, we need to aware of the blessings we have all received this past year. I cannot help but think about the farmers who worked hard in the fields so I could have something to eat. We cannot forget the migrant workers who worked in the hot sun for little pay so we could eat apples, strawberries, and many other seasonal foods. Another group we cannot forget all those who work in the service jobsâ€¦.those who work in fast foods, waiters and waitresses, people who work in the supermarkets, the people who run the gas stations, the nurses and aids in the hospitals and nursing homes, among many. We all need to be thankful for our police, firefighters and emergency personnel who everyday keep us safe or get us to the hospital when we are sick. The Thanksgiving theme this year is not about thankfulness for the material things or the food on the table. Our thanksgiving needs to be about the people we interact with everyday who we may not see or just assume will be there. May God bless them all with peace and joy.
The parable of the 10 bridesmaids is a challenge to be aware and alert and ready for Christ’s coming at the end of time, and to be ready today. In the time of Jesus, the wedding celebration was different than what we do. The groom would go the bride’s house accompanied by his family and friends, and would jokingly haggle with the father of the bride about the dowery. The higher the price; the most precious the bride. At this, of course it was all symbolic, the dowery had already been settled but it could take some time. When it was all over, the bridegroom would bring the bride to his house for the ceremony and celebration. However, since no one knew how long the father and groom would spend haggling, people were sent ahead to announce the coming of the bridegroom. This was the job of the bridesmaids â€¦.they were to light the way for the bride and bridegroom and announce the time of the wedding was near. They had to be prepared and ready because they didn’t know how long the “haggling” would last.
We are the bridesmaidsâ€¦â€¦we need to be ready to announce the coming of Christ the Bridegroom. Our challenge to is to keep the lamp of faith alive, filled with oil of grace, and our faith burning brightly. How? By actively engaging the life of faith.
We need to be actively praying and renewing our spiritual life.
Our weekly attendance at the Eucharist and celebrating the Sacraments,
By reading the Scriptures, and other spiritual writers
By actively embracing acts of charity and justice
we replenish the oil of our faith.
The parable is a challenge to realize that our life of faith, our relationship with Christ is an investment. But it is not a static investment. It is not a lamp that will keep burning when we do not put oil into it. The 5 wise bridesmaids put an effort into their work. They kept their lamps filled with oil and the wicks were trimmed. They kept awake and alert looking for the bridegroom. They did not sit around looking for someone else to do the work. The 5 foolish one expected to keep their lamps lit with someone else’s effort. They put the minimal amount of work into it.
Our faith life will not survive on a minimal amount of work.
To wait for the Bridegroom is to be activeâ€¦
to keep enough oil on handâ€¦.our works of charity , our life of prayer..
to trim the wicksâ€¦to be challenged by the Gospel to a constant conversion of our hearts..
to change the behaviors that are in our way of getting closer to Christâ€¦.
to be awake….to be alert to Christ’s presence everyday;
even in the places we least expectâ€¦.
and finally, to announce the coming of the Bridegroom by our actions and by our words. Doing this things, the second coming of Christ will not be surpriseâ€¦.it will be the welcoming of an old and beloved friend We will miss him, and end up outside of the wedding feast.
O Lord Jesus, Bridegroom of the wedding feast of heaven,
Help me to be ready for your coming.
May the oil of the lamp of my faith be constantly replenished by the Eucharist and prayer
May I be trimmed as a wick to burn brighter by allowing you into the parts of my life that need to be changed and grown
Keep me awake in my faithâ€¦may I never grow complacent or tired, but always alert
O Lord Jesus, host of the wedding feast, may I be alert and ready to announce to all the you are here.
I am sure you all join me in prayer for those who were killed as they worshipped last Sunday morning. I cannot imagine the horror that the people in that church felt. Jesus tells us that “My Father’s house is a house of prayer”; yet, too many times in the last few years it has become a place of violence and mourning. In many ways, it drives home to me the need to realize how risky the life of a Christian can be. Our very worship is a statement of who we are and a challenge to those who do not agree with us.
I cannot help but think of the French priest who was murdered a few years ago as he celebrated Mass. I could not think when I read about it, how many times I had said morning Mass and never worried about my safety. I firmly pray that our Sunday worship will never be something to fear.
Many people are wondering why this happened and the news has all sorts of explanations. The reality is that we may never really know. Who can really know what happens inside a person when they commit such an act? I am not willing to jump to the catch-all phrase that he was mentally ill. Too many people already are afraid of mentally people and think that a person is violent. Some statistic show that many of the victims of violence are actually those with mental illness. Do some people who are mentally ill do violent things in a psychotic state? Yes. But many “sane people” also do violent things and are completely rational!
I am a firm believer that we need to take precautions and be aware of keeping ourselves safe; but, I also think a siege mentality will create more anxiety. Out places of worship must be a place of safety, but, a safety based on our hope and trust in the Lord
God is always with us and I am sure he was with those people last Sunday morning, even in the midst of all the violence. We are connected to them in our common baptism. They are our brothers and sisters in faith.
May the Lord grant those who died eternal peace and healing to those who were injured. May the healing spirit of Jesus surround the families of those now have to cope with the effects of this violent act.
At the risk of dating myself, do any of you remember the old song that Dionne Warwick sang in 1966:
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone.â€¦
Jesus , when asked by the Pharisee, what the greatest commandment is resounds with the Shema. The Shema is said everyday in the Jewish community. It is akin to the Our Father for us. The greatest commandment is to love God above everything. What does it mean to love God? I think is is total dedication to Him. Love is not a feeling. It is a commitment.
I love to eat chocolate chip cookies, but that feeling goes away when I am hungry again. Also, if I eat too many, than I am putting my health and waistline at risk. To love God is to actively commit ourselves everyday, every hour, every moment to God. It is not dependent our our feelings. God’s love is incarnate in Jesus; God gave us everything he could give us; his very self. Why would Jesus go the Cross if not for Love? I think what we need to teach our young people is about God’s abiding love. We need to help them (and ourselves) commit our entire life’s to God.
But, the Shema and Jesus don’t stop there. After, we commit ourselves to love of God, we commit our selves to love all people. It is very clear who our neighbor is:
Isaiah is quite clear:
Do not molest an alien..remember you were aliens in Egypt
There are no strangers in the Christian Community
God loves each of us equally; saint and sinner
We need to ask ourselves who is the alien among us; the stranger,
the person who needs us
You shall not wrong the orphan and the widow. Remember there was no Social Security, no Food Stamps, no governmental assistance. A widow had no standing in society..she was dependent on her family and friends to survive and if they didn’t take care of her, then she could starve, or have to beg, or worse
Who are the widows and orphans among us?
Who do we as a church community need to reach out toâ€¦..who has no one?
Finally, the Love that God shares us with us and calls us to share with othersâ€¦.it is a call to justice. Justice meaning everyone is treated with fairly. To take someone’s cloak and not return it, is equal to making someone sleep on the street; hopefully over a subway grate; if there is one. If not, the person will sleep on the cold hard ground.
Granted we need to prudent with our sharing, but we can take care of the homeless and poor in many different ways.
Finally, we are called to love our selvesâ€¦â€¦this is to see ourselves as God sees us. Too many times, we cant love ourselves because of old messages that say we are not worth anything or because we don’t feel like we deserve anything. This is not how God sees us. God looks at us, even in our sinfulness and shortcomings, and sees himself. We are told in Genesis that each human person is created in the image of God. Our love of self and others is the rooted in the divine image within.
So maybe, Dionne Warwick had it right. The world needs loveâ€¦â€¦..from you and me
This weekend’s Gospel is a challenge for us. It would appear that Jesus is telling us to keep our civil responsibilities and our religious responsibilities separate from one another. Pay your taxes; pray to God, but not at the same time. At one time in the history of the Church, pre-Vatican II, this was the prevailing attitude. In this view, the world was not a good place, but the Church promised heaven. However, since Vatican II, the documents of the Council have challenged us to be salt and leaven to society.
We read in Lumen Gentium 31: ” But the laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity. Therefore, since they are tightly bound up in all types of temporal affairs it is their special task to order and to throw light upon these affairs in such a way that they may come into being and then continually increase according to Christ to the praise of the Creator and the Redeemer.”
In other words, we all are called to season society with our witness to the faith. This includes the ordained bishop,priest and deacon and religious women and men. Each one of us, no matter our state in life, is challenged to bring the message of Jesus into the world.
Our world today is in need of the saving message of Jesus. You just need to listen to the news for 2 minutes to hear of violence, war, bullying, latent and overt racism and prejudice, sexism, and the list continues. The call of the Gospel is not isolate ourselves into a rigid world set off from the world with walls; I truly believe that the reality of Vatican II challenges to embrace the world with the same love and acceptance that Jesus embraced the Cross. Salt flavors the food we use and can be coarse at times, but is needed. So too our faith. We need to flavor the world with our beliefs even when it may rub someone the wrong way. Leaven makes bread rise and grow. The leaven of our love will help the world grow into the Kingdom of Jesus.
May we witness in our world to the love of God may real in Christ.