32 Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 8, 2020
I know a whole lot about wedding parties…bridesmaids and groomsmen.
In my late teens and early 20’s, a number of relatives and friends invited me to be part of their wedding parties. Later, from the sidelines, as a wedding guest, I watched bridal parties interact.
Then, close to 30 years ago, I started to observe wedding parties…bridesmaids and groomsmen, from the sanctuary…as the minister “officiating” at the Sacrament of Christian marriage.
I have had an opportunity to observe wedding parties from every angle, and so I approach today’s Gospel with a great deal of experience. Not at all surprising that five were prepared and five…not so much. From my personal experience and observations, members of wedding parties can be divided along those very lines…prepared/unprepared…serious/silly…mature/(sorry to say this, but) childish.
There are always “attendants” who are wise enough to understand that they have been asked to serve as witnesses to the sacrament of Christian marriage. For them, the sanctity and solemnity of the occasion is not overshadowed by bachelor parties or dresses and makeup, hairdos and flowers. The “wise” appreciate that the wedding (marriage covenant) is the reason for the party. The “not so wise,” the spiritually immature, usually start the party before the wedding, which they restlessly tolerate. And from what I have experienced and observed, the wise have no influence over the party people.
Maybe it is as simple as this: For those who understand that they have been called to be witnesses to the marriage covenant, the celebration that follows is rich with meaning and all that much more joyful. For the less spiritually informed, it is just another party.
Clearly, the Church has not linked the three scripture passages for this 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time to enlighten wedding parties on proper etiquette (although there are lessons to be learned in that regard.) The much broader purpose might well be to remind us that through our baptisms, we are invited to be special witnesses to another all-encompassing covenant…God’s covenant with our Church.
I WILL BE YOUR GOD IF YOU WILL BE MY PEOPLE.
This all-encompassing covenant was established through Jesus and defined in the Gospel.
The precious oil which Matthew describes in today’s passage brings to mind the grace we receive through baptism. Grace, or life in Christ, is freely refreshed, renewed, replenished by the other sacraments. And it is grace that makes us living lamps that light the path to the Kingdom. It is our light that will be burning brightly as a welcome to Christ when he returns in glory.
Tragically, not everyone who is included in the wedding party, invited to be witnesses to God’s all-encompassing covenant, are wise enough or spiritually mature enough to appreciate just exactly what it is we are called to witness. They waste what has been ignited within them. They misunderstand the solemn duty entrusted to them as disciples. They foolishly begin the party before the covenant has been fulfilled with Christ’s return in glory.
They are satisfied with the things of this world without preparing for the things to come…an eternal celebration…a never-ending wedding feast in the Kingdom. They burn themselves out! Because the oil of gladness is unique to each individual, we can’t give them what has been given to us! The good news is this: As long as we wait, grace is available, freely and graciously given by the Holy Spirit.
So maybe the take-away from our Liturgy of the Word is this: Check your oil frequently, and top it off with the sacraments so that your light will be burning brightly to greet Christ when He returns.