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A Scripture Reflection for the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

by Robin Ryan, C.P. | November 12, 2017


A Scripture Reflection for the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 12, 2017
Readings: Wi 6:12-16, Ps 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8, 1 Thes 4:13-18, Mt 25:1-13

One of the most rewarding aspects of teaching at CTU is the opportunity to meet students from a variety of vocational and cultural backgrounds, many of whom have extensive experience in pastoral ministry. Some of these students have experienced significant hardship in living their Christian faith. They come from places where it is not easy to be a practicing Christian, and they and their families have suffered for their faith. Some are parents and grandparents who have faced the challenges involved in creating a home and raising a family. There are women and men who can tell inspiring stories about their ministry in parishes, hospitals, prisons, campus ministry settings, and more. As I meet these students and listen to their stories, I often discern a wisdom that is deeper than mere knowledge. It is a wisdom born of a faith that has been lived out amidst the joys and hardships of everyday life.

Each of us knows a fair number of people whom we would call "smart" or "intelligent." Walking the streets of Hyde Park, near the prestigious University of Chicago and in the vicinity of several graduate schools of theology, I encounter many people who are quite smart. I suspect, though, that there are fewer people in our lives whom we would call "wise." Wisdom is a gift that seems harder to come by. Wisdom requires a wealth of life experience and sustained reflection upon that experience. It is marked by a penetrating insight into the human heart that comes from many hours of patient listening to others. And, as I have discovered in many CTU students, wisdom is a virtue that is refined in the crucible of trial and suffering.

In our Judeo-Christian tradition, wisdom is a gift that is so highly esteemed that it is personified, depicted as a living person. An entire book of the Old Testament is named after wisdom. The first reading for this Sunday, taken from that book, portrays wisdom in the most exquisite of terms. Wisdom is resplendent and unfading; it is a treasure to be sought after eagerly and ardently. As Christians, we believe that the very Wisdom of God has become flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. The depths of God's wisdom have been revealed in Christ's words and deeds, his death and resurrection.

In the Gospel parable of the ten maidens, Jesus gives us some clues about what it takes to become truly wise. The wise person is the one who is on the watch for Christ's coming: "Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour." This vigilance for the coming of Christ does pertain to our encounter with him "at the end": the end of time or the end of our lives. Acknowledging our own mortality, recognizing that we will meet the Lord at the end of our lives, can give us a perspective on life that is truly wise. Often when we encounter a person who has had to look death squarely in the face we find genuine wisdom.

The Gospel also invites us to be watchful for the many ways in which Christ makes his presence known in our lives now. Christ is the Bridegroom who reveals himself to us in the Scriptures, in the celebration of the sacraments, through the presence of the person we love so deeply, in the face of the poor person we encounter on the street, and in the depths of our own hearts when we quiet ourselves for prayer. We are called to be vigilant--on the lookout--for Christ's visitations in our lives.

When we deepen our awareness of the Lord's presence and of our own dependence upon him, we grow in wisdom. Amidst all of the concerns of everyday life, Christ enables us to keep our eyes focused on what is really important. As we invite Christ more fully into our lives, he inspires us to become more accepting of our own limitations, more at peace with the fact that we cannot always accomplish all that we would like to accomplish. And it is Christ's faithful presence to us that empowers us to become more generous in our commitment to others.

As we have watched the news this week, we have been immersed in the tragic stories of loss caused by another senseless mass killing in our country. A disturbed man, who should never have had access to a gun, shooting children and adults multiple times at close range, while they prayed in a church. No explanation or theory--theological or otherwise--can make sense of such a horrific tragedy. At moments like this, wisdom counsels us to express our solidarity with the victims, to reach out to others in compassion, and to reflect soberly on the violence that plagues our society. Wisdom challenges us to allow God to train our vision, so that we may recognize and honor the inestimable worth of every human life.

It is Christ who is our wisdom and our peace. As we approach the table of the Lord this Sunday, may we be watchful for his presence to us in the Eucharist and in the many other ways in which he visits us throughout the course of our lives.


The above image is from the Public Domain.

Author information Robin Ryan, C.P.

Robin Ryan is a Passionist priest and theologian who serves as Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Catholic Theological Union. He received his Ph.D. in systematic theology from The Catholic University of America. He is the author of numerous articles and recordings on theological and spiritual topics. He edited and contributed to the book Catholics on Call: Discerning a Life of Service in the Church (Liturgical Press, 2010). He is the author of God and the Mystery of Human Suffering: A Theological Conversation Across the Ages (Paulist Press, 2011). He is the author of the forthcoming book Jesus and Salvation (Liturgical Press). He is also a contributor to and English-language editor of the forthcoming Diccionario de la Pasión (Madrid, San Pablo) and the founding director of Catholics on Call.

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