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The word this week

‘Stay awake, because you do not know either the day or hour’

Thirty Second Sunday of the Year: Wisdom 6:12-16; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13

By on Thursday, 3 November 2011

“Wisdom is bright, and does not grow dim. Quick to anticipate those who desire her, she makes herself known to them. Watch for her early and you will have no trouble, you will find her sitting at your gates.”

These verses, taken from the Book of Wisdom, presented God’s Presence in what was, for Israel’s ancient faith, a fresh and compelling manner. The Presence of God was described as personified wisdom, a wisdom that revealed itself in the wonders of creation. The God who stood behind this imagery was not passive. He was quick to anticipate those who desired his wisdom, readily revealing himself to them. Only one thing was necessary on the part of the creature: to long for God’s life giving wisdom. The psalmist expressed this beautifully: “O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting. My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water.”

The imagery of a wisdom that searches us out, linked to a longing that rejoices to find such wisdom, touches something fundamental in our human condition.

We are always searching, always longing for love and understanding. We are restless travellers, always searching, but never quite finding the peace for which we long. The Book of Wisdom, with its image of personified wisdom, presents God’s Presence as the ultimate goal of our longing. Even to acknowledge our longing for God, is, in the words of Wisdom, understanding fully grown. Each and every day can become a confident searching for God’s presence, a presence revealed to us in prayer, in the goodness of those we encounter, in the choices for virtue that await us at every turn. “Be on the alert for Wisdom and anxiety will quickly leave you. She herself walks about looking for those who are worthy of her and graciously shows herself to them as they go.”

It would be difficult to devise a more beautiful description of the grace of God that awaits us in the unfolding of each day. Only one thing is necessary: to be watchful and confident, to long for God’s grace in each present moment of our lives.

Matthew’s parable of the 10 bridesmaids going out to meet the bridegroom flows from the same confident expectation of God’s presence. As the bridesmaids eagerly awaited the return of the bridegroom, so the Church attends constantly the presence of her Risen Lord. We, as members of
the Church, are caught up in this constant vigilance. True longing for the Lord never rests. It begins in the present moment and continues to the end of time. Christ assured his disciples that he would be with them whenever they were gathered in his name. With the bridesmaids, we await Christ’s presence in the next moment of prayer, the next celebration of the Eucharist and the next celebration of Reconciliation. We await our next encounter with family and friends, our next meeting with those described by Jesus as the least of our brethren, for here Christ is revealed to us.

The parable of the bridesmaids takes us to the end of time, reminding us that the time will come when the doorway to God’s presence shall be closed. Those who had gone off to buy oil for their lamps were cut off from the bridegroom. The challenge is inescapable. “Stay awake, because you do not know either the day or hour.”

Let us pray for a longing that never tires of searching for God. Pray that we might find him, both in the present moment, and at the end of time.