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Select Exegesis
November, 1 2011

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Dr. Terrance Callan

Wisdom 6:12-16 1 Thess 4:13-18 Matthew 25:1-13

It is easy to be completely absorbed by the needs and concerns of the present and to give little thought to the future, especially what seems to be the distant future.  The needs of our families, our work, and even of the church, are immediate; who knows what the future will bring?  As followers of Jesus, however, we need to be mindful that Jesus will come again to bring the history of the world to its conclusion.

            The reading from the gospel according to Matthew is a parable that Jesus tells after discussing the time of the end in Matthew 24.  In this parable ten bridesmaids await the arrival of the groom who has gone to get the bride and bring her to his home.  The groom is delayed so five of the bridesmaids run out of oil for their lamps.  The other five were sensible enough to bring extra oil.  While the five foolish bridesmaids are buying more oil, the groom arrives.  Only the five who thought to bring extra oil are ready to greet him and are able to go into the wedding celebration.

            Like these ten bridesmaids waiting for the groom, we await the second coming of Jesus.  But his arrival has been delayed, by now for a very long time.  There is danger that we will be like the foolish bridesmaids whose preparation for the coming of the groom was insufficient and resulted in their not participating in the celebration.  In order to be like the sensible bridesmaids who were ready when the groom arrived, we need to have a lively sense that Jesus may return at any time.  As Jesus says at the conclusion of the parable, “stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

            The reading from the book of Wisdom speaks about the need to seek Wisdom in order to find her and about the rewards of finding her “whoever for her sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care.”  Christians have seen Jesus as the incarnation of Wisdom.  In this light, the passage can be understood as an exhortation to seek Jesus.  And read in the context of the gospel parable, the exhortation to seek Wisdom incarnate in Jesus can be seen as an exhortation to await his second coming eagerly.

            It is the reading from St. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians that speaks most directly about the second coming of Jesus, describing it in some detail.  The reading also presents a practical reason for maintaining a lively expectation that Jesus will come again.

            Apparently the Thessalonians have become worried about those who die before the return of Jesus.  They seem concerned that those who die will miss out on the benefits of salvation when it has been fully accomplished at Jesus’ return.  Paul tries to prevent the Thessalonians’ yielding to grief by assuring them that at Jesus’ return those who have died in Christ will rise.  In this way they will participate, along with those who are still alive, in the fulfillment of salvation.  Paul urges his readers to “Console one another with these words.”

            Our expectation of the return of Jesus can serve the same function for us that Paul wanted it to serve for the Thessalonians.  Believing in the resurrection of the dead at Jesus’ return can console us in the face of their death.  Our expectation of Jesus’ return can also assure us that in the end Jesus’ triumph over evil will be complete.


Terrance Callan


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