32 Sunday A and Dedication of Lateran Basilica

Reflections on Both the Themes. - TK

3 Readings talk about God's presence in three areas: Nature (water & Herb) or creation. This is first temple. Second human persons, second temple. Third: social, civil and ecclesial structures. God first created time, space and context. Then created human beings. Sin and grace take place at a particular, location and context. Paradise had everything for grace and growth. Also the apple tree that caused sin.
During the plague in France, those who sought refuge in the churches were saved. This was because of the candle lights and incense that kept the rats away. context and time and place in God's plan! - TK

**********
Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration

Sisters and brothers, each week when we assemble for the Eucharist we enter into the presence of the Father, and offer him the sacrifice of praise in union with Christ Jesus. We enter into the presence of Christ, and through him into the presence of the Father. Today we reflect that as the people of the Lord Jesus we are called to be always awake and ready to bring his wisdom to our world and to be his presence among all the people we encounter.
1. How do we learn to be Christians? This question assumes that we already have a clear sense of who we are when we gather here.

2. Let’s think of some groups that we are all familiar with. The first is a group of people on a plane: they all want to go to the same place at the same time, so they have something distinc­tive in common; but would you call them a community? They are really a collection of individuals who just happen to have something in common, and it is easier to get a service if the costs are distributed. Imagine someone offered that group a free lottery: ten lucky people could win a chance to travel in a private jet to the same destination at the same time: there would be them (either on her /his own, or if they are travelling as a couple or a family, then just the couple or family on the private jet). How many would want his/her name in the draw? I suspect, virtually everyone. The group travelling together is only a collection with little that matters in common.
Now imagine a long-distance train or bus journey: the train/bus goes along a fixed route each day from A to Z, and there are a few who are on it for the whole journey. Others get on at C and off at K, while others get on at K and go on to X; still more get on somewhere else and get off at yet another stop. It is a friendly train, the conductor reminds people that they are approaching a station and warns them to be ready to get off, if that is their stop and reminds them to check that each has all personal belongings with them. Sometimes those who take a train often, recognise other travellers by sight, sometimes they might even speak, sometimes not a word is uttered. And, while they all go along the same journey together, each has individual interests: some are reading, some chatting to friends, others listening to music on headphones, others texting on their mobiles, and here and there you can see people with a look of deep concentration: they are doing Sudoku.

3. Now shift your imagination to a birthday party. Again, lots of people in the same place at the same time with a common interest. But the dynamics are completely different: they all have a sensed of being there because of something that unites them. There would be no sense in asking if they wanted to eat separately or go off on their own: their whole purpose is to be together. This is what celebration means. People are doing different things, but it is the whole group that makes the party.

4. Now consider this: is gathering today for this Eucharist just people together in the sense of the plane (all want the same thing and cannot get ‘it’ individually) or the bus (people just joining in for the bits they need) or is it a celebration: all invited to be the party at the banquet?

5. Jesus came to form a community. We say that we are called to his supper, and he wants the way we behave here at his table to be a model for how we treat one another and all people.

6. But is this our attitude? We offer a sign of peace, but are we ready to make common cause with those around us? Do we seek to get to know them? This is the great open meal, so if someone has just joined us today, would they feel welcome?

7. We have to learn to be Christians by learning to live and work together; but Jesus realised that a primary first step was to learn how to share with one another at this meal. Here we learn how to be Christians; here we learn how we must com­municate the welcoming love of the Father; here we are acclimatised as a group for the banquet prepared for us in heaven.

************
The Dedication of the St John Lateran Basilica

The Church of St John on the Lateran in Rome is ‘Mother and Head of all the churches of the City and the World’. It is the cathedral church of the Bishop of Rome, and was called ‘St John’ after the two monasteries once attached, dedicated to St John the Divine and St John the Baptist. It is however dedicated to the Most Holy Saviour.

Although the Pope lives in the Vatican and in the shadow of St Peter’s Basilica, the Basilica of St John Lateran is the Pope’s church, the cathedral of the diocese of Rome, where the Bishop of Rome presides. It has as its patrons St John the Evangelist and St John the Baptist (because of the baptistery adjacent to the basilica). Since the 7th century it has also been known as the Basilica of the Most Holy Saviour. Patrick Duffy traces the reason for the feast.

The Lateran Palace

The Lateran Palace in Rome originally belonged to the Laterani family, who served as administrators to several emperors, but Nero confiscated it. When Constantine became emperor, he gave it over to the Church for a synod.

Basilica becomes the cathedral of Rome

Pope Sylvester I (314-335) then had the basilica (which literally means a royal hall for transacting business or legal matters) of the house extended and it functioned as a church. It soon became the cathedral of the Church of Rome and the seat of the popes for a thousand years. Five ecumenical councils, all called Lateran, were held there: in 1123, 1139, 1179, 1215 and 1512-17. While the popes were absent from Rome in Avignon (1305-1403), the Basilica fell into disrepair. The popes did not return to live there, but resided first at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, then at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, and lastly at the Vatican. 

Restoration of palace and basilica

The palace was restored by Pope Sixtus V (Felice Peretti 1585-90). Pope Innocent X (Giovanni Battista Pamphili 1644-55) commissioned the present structure of the basilica in 1646 and Pope Clement XII (Lorenzo Corsini 1730-40) gave it a grand new fa├žade in 1735. 

This is a souvenir copy of the creation of the Vatican State by the Lateran Pacts. Its “trinity” of King Victor Emmanuel III, Pope Pius XI and Benito Mussolini. 

The Lateran Treaty 1929

In 1929 the Lateran Treaty was signed in the Lateran Palace by Mussolini and Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Gasparri. Today the palace houses the Vicariate and offices of the diocese of Rome which Pope John XXIII located there. 

The Basilica today

St. John Lateran is the cathedral of the diocese of Rome where the Bishop of Rome presides, especially on Holy Thursday for the Chrism Mass. One of Rome’s most imposing churches, the Lateran’s towering facade is crowned with 15 colossal statues - Christ, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist and 12 doctors of the Church. Beneath its high altar rest the remains of the small wooden table on which tradition holds St. Peter himself celebrated Mass.

Relevance of the feast

We are all members of our own local church, work for he universal kingdom of Christ,  are also members of this “mother-church” in Rome.

This feast helps us move beyond our narrow geographical confines to a sense of the universal Church. See also 18th November, the Dedication of the Churches of St Peter and St Paul.

************
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
Dedication of St. John Lateran:  

 We Are Church In the first three hundred years of its existence the Church was persecuted throughout the world. The persecution was somewhat sporadic. Sometimes, the Roman authorities would close their eyes to Christians, not bothering with them. Other times they would only persecute Christians if an individual Christian was denounced by someone.

 Quite often, the Emperors, such as Domitian and Diocletian, would declare that all Christians had to be found and put to death. Even in the best of times, Christianity was a dangerous way of life. Christians had to meet in people’s homes, or in underground cemeteries like the catacombs. They could not build Churches; the authorities would know where they were. But Christianity continued to spread throughout the Roman Empire. In the year 313 the Emperor Constantine declared in the Edict of Milan that Christianity would no longer be persecuted. His mother, St. Helena, had become a fervent Christian. He would become a Christian himself. Now, Constantine and his mother lived in a palace in Rome that had been owned by the Laterani family. Constantine turned a wing of that palace over to the Church. This was the first Christian Church in Rome.  

 It was dedicated to Our Lord the Redeemer and to St. John the Baptist. Therefore it is known as the Basilica of St. John Lateran. From the pope of that time, Melichiades, on to the present, St. John Lateran has been the Cathedral Church of Rome. The popes themselves lived there until they moved to the Vatican Hill in the late middle ages. The Cardinal that administers Rome for the pope continues to do so from St. John Lateran. What must it have been like in those earliest days when Christians could call St. John Lateran their own Church? Can you imagine the emotion? They had their own place. They could come to Church and worship openly, and without fear. The first basilica would have been modest, a simple structure, but then as time went on rebuilding and refurbishing would provide a great, beautiful edifice for worship. Still, from the very beginning the Christians knew that as great as this building and other buildings might be, culminating in the Basilica of St. Peter on the Vatican Hill, still, it was the people not the building that made the Church. St. Paul put it this way to the Corinthians and to us: You are God's building. .... 

 Are you not aware that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?....The temple of God is holy, and you are that temple. (1 Cor 3:16-17) Today’s celebration is not really about a place, after all. It is about us. We are the Church. Together we are a place of refuge from the terrors of the world. Together, united with Christ, we are a people of love in a world of hatred. Do you ever get to the point that you just can’t take what society has become? Religion is openly scorned. Catholics are mocked by the liberal media as being out of the mainstream of American thought, that mainstream being anyone who sees things as they do. Opposition to obvious blatantly immoral acts like abortion is portrayed as representing a right wing fringe movement, even though this opposition represents the opinion of the vast majority of the country.  

 Our young people have been given a very strange view of what is morally acceptable. They are taught this deranged concept: anything is permissible as long as the bad results of an action are prevented. This is wrong. For example, the concept would be that it is OK to get drunk, as long as you have a designated driver.  

 Or that it is OK to engage in casual intimate actions as long as you have protection from AIDS or pregnancy. The beauty of creation has been sacrificed to a pornographic world that has neither need nor desire for God. Sometimes you just want to run to a Church to get away from it all. And we do. We run to the Church as our one refuge of sanity.  

 The Church we run to is not just a building, it is the people. United with Christ, we the Church, have the courage to oppose the idiocies and inadequacies of our society. The people who first walked into St. John Lateran were elated to have their own building, but they knew that they already had their own Church. They had the courage to remain faithful to Christ throughout the persecution of the Romans and the mockery of their world. We who walk into St. Ignatius today and every Sunday are elated to have this building, elated to call this God’s house, but we know that we, not the building are the Church.  

 Like our spiritual ancestors we pray for the courage to remain faithful to Christ. Faithful to Christ through the persecution of the so-called intelligentsia, faithful to Christ despite the mockery of the world. And we will remain faithful. We are as strong as the people who first worshiped at St. John Lateran. We are the Church.
**********
32 Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

Michel DeVerteuil
General Comments

Today’s passage is a teaching on “what the kingdom of heaven will be like” (verse 1). This biblical
expression means the coming of grace into the world. The passage therefore is a teaching on grace, inviting us to recognise and celebrate our experiences of grace, and to prepare ourselves for future comings.

“Will be” is a reminder that the final and definitive coming of grace lies in the future, but the teaching also refers to the many partial but real comings of grace that we and our communities (including the worldwide human family) have experienced.
The teaching is parabolic so it is important to remind ourselves of how we meditate on a parable:
- The parable comprises different characters; we choose the one(s) we want to identify with and
read   the parable from his or her (their) perspective.

- A “crunch point” occurs at a certain stage of the story, a turning point which jolts us so that
we know instinctively that this is the central moment in the parable. The “crunch point” will
be different for different people; indeed it will be different for us at different stages in our lives.

In this parable there are four possible “crunch points”:
-The moment of the cry, “the bridegroom is here” (verse 6) – grace  always takes us by surprise.
-The foolish bridesmaids find out that their lamps are going out and the wise ones will not give
them oil (verses 7 to 9) – grace is always “disturbing”.

-The wise bridesmaids go with the bridegroom into the wedding hall (verse 10) – grace is pure joy.
-The foolish bridesmaids come late and are told “I don’t know you” (vs 11 and 12)  – grace brings
feelings of remorse, despair even, but as a step to conversion.
In each case the bridesmaids represent two possibilities and we have been both at different times of our lives. The “wise” (a better word than the Jerusalem Bible “sensible”) are ourselves at our best, the “foolish” ourselves at our worst.

We can also focus on the bridegroom, remembering times when someone waited a long time for us to come to the best of ourselves (I took this approach in one of the prayers below).

Focussing on the person of Jesus can help bring the passage alive for us. At this point in his life, he is in Jerusalem, about to be arrested and crucified.  The parable then becomes a testimony to his own attitude

-he is a wise bridesmaid, ready for his moment of grace. It is also a heartfelt warning to his beloved
disciples that they must not be like the foolish bridesmaids and miss their moment of grace when he is arrested. Who does he remind us of? 

Textual comments

Verse 6: We can focus on either of two aspects of the moment of grace:
- It does not happen instantly, we have to wait a long time for it, so long that we “grow  drowsy
(get a feel for that) and fall asleep”.
- When it comes, it is a surprise, like being wakened from sleep by a peremptory cry (“a rude awakening”).

Verses 7 to 9: Grace always disturbs. It makes us fumble, look for solutions that are both impractical and unreasonable – like expecting the wise bridesmaids to give of their oil supply even though they risk not having enough, neither for themselves nor for others.
We must make the effort to identity what Jesus meant by the “extra flask” of oil. It is what makes the difference between “good” and “great”, “courageous” and “heroic”, “run-of-the-mill” and “special”.

Verse 10: The moment of grace is like entering into a great festive hall, accompanied by one we have
waited long for. We think of:
- our marriage ceremony (or 25th or 50th  anniversary);
- the first sexual experience;
- the return home of an addict;
- a moment of national reconciliation.

Verses 11 and 12: These verses are almost unbearably sad. We enter into the feelings of the rejected
bridesmaids, the finality of the door being closed while the bridesmaids shout, “open up,” the hopelessness
of hearing the words “I don’t know you”. We can imagine the  remorse -  “why wasn’t I ready when he came?”

We think of similar experiences:
- parents wanting their children to open up to them after years of neglecting them;
- abusers faced with the breakup of their families;
- national leaders trying in vain to get warring parties to be reconciled.
The teaching reminds us that we must live with the consequences of our choices.
There is nothing airy fairy about Jesus – or about teachers like him.
Though this particular relationship can never be recovered, there will be other chances of healthy
relationships – so the teaching is positive and a call to repentance.

The concluding verse 13 stands on its own. It is not strictly a comment on the parable since none of the bridesmaids actually “stay awake”. The verse is rather a general teaching on “staying awake”
to the grace of the present moment – “the day and the hour”.
The deepest truth of every “day and hour” is that the bridegroom has arrived.
We give the word “know” its full meaning of “perceiving all the possibilities latent in…”.

Scripture Prayer reflection

       Lord, you really like to keep us waiting:
- for long years we struggled with an alcohol problem;
- we thought that a difficult child would never settle down;
- the parish youth group kept going from one crisis to the next.
Then, all of a sudden, out of the blue, the moment of grace came.
It was as if at midnight, when everybody had gone to sleep,
there was a cry, “The bridegroom is here! Go out to meet him!”
We thank you that we did not give up hope;
somehow or other we had left ourselves open to the possibility of better things:
we had kept an extra flask of oil alongside our regular supply,
so that we were able to trim our lamps and welcome the bridegroom when he came.
Thank you, Lord.

“My mother don’t have time to talk to me. I don’t have her to tell me things.
       When she comes home from work, she only has time to clean the kitchen, go to
       sleep and back to work again.”    …A young boy in Trinidad
Lord, we pray for parents.
It is not easy for them.
They are frequently so tired at the end of the day
that when the children come to share their lives with them
they have grown drowsy and fallen asleep.
Give them that reserve of energy
so that they may never have to come knocking at the door of their children’s hearts
and hear the terrible words, “I do not know you.”

Lord, we thank you for the experience of the sacrament of reconciliation
celebrated after many years being away.
It was like arriving late at night, long after we were due,
and yet being welcomed with great joy
like a bridegroom being escorted into the wedding hall.

Lord, nowadays we are accustomed to doing things instantly,
turning a switch or putting in a plug.
So we tend to think that we can know people instantly too.
But having someone open up to us always takes a long time.
It is like being a bridesmaid and having to wait late into the night
for the bridegroom to come, and then continue to wait,
and when we have almost given up hope that he will come,
to hear that he is there and we must go out to meet him.
It is only after that kind of waiting that two persons can enter into deep intimacy.

“I promise by thy grace that I will embrace whatever I last feel certain is the truth,
       if I ever come to be certain.”  …Cardinal Newman as he wondered whether he should join the Catholic Church
Lord, we pray for those who are searching:
- those who, like Cardinal Newman, ask themselves if they should leave their Church and join another;
- young people not sure what their vocation in life is;
- friends who cannot decide on marriage.
Give them the grace to continue waiting,
not pretending that the bridegroom has come if he hasn’t,
confident that when at midnight there is the cry, “He is here!”
they will go out to meet him.

Lord, we spend a lot of energy fighting against the present moment
- blaming ourselves or others for mistakes of the past;
- regretting that things are not as good as they could be;
- anxious about how the future will be.
And so our eyes are closed to the possibilities that are there in the present.
Teach us always to stay awake, because we do not know the day or the hour of your grace.

“Care for the dying is founded upon two unshakeable beliefs:
       that each minute of life should be lived to the full,
       and that death is quite simply part of life,
       to be faced openly and with hands outstretched.”  ….Sheila Cassidy
Lord, we thank you that you call some of us to minister to the dying.
Some are afraid, others angry or confused.
You want us to help them all to welcome you;
to teach people, as Jesus did,
that it is all right if we fall asleep when you are long in coming,
because we know that when the cry goes up, “The bridegroom is here!”
we will merely trim our lamps and go into the wedding hall with him.

****************************************************************
Jack Mc Ardle
Central Theme

Today’s gospel tells us how important it is to be ready when Jesus calls. This does not mean simply death, or the end of the world. It means being ready when the moment of grace comes along; to be ready to respond to the inspirations of the Spirit.

Parable

I accompanied pilgrimages to different places some years ago, and I enjoyed the experiences. We would have about fifty in the coach. The pilgrimage wasn’t always about visiting shrines, and saying prayers. We had a two-week pilgrimage for several years, where the second week was a holiday by the sea. Every single year we used have the exact same problem with three or four people. They were never ready when the coach was ready to leave or, indeed, to return. We tried everything, even to the extent of going off for a day-trip without them, after waiting in the coach for twenty minutes. On the other hand, there were those who were always first on the coach, and all set to go. I was thinking of all of this as I read today’s gospel. 

Story

Tiger Woods, the golfer, bumped into Stevie Wonder, the blind musician, in a bar. Tiger asked him how the music was going, and Stevie said that it was going well, and he was very pleased with all that was happening. Stevie asked Tiger how the golf was going, and was told, ‘Not too good at the moment. My dri­ver is not working too well for me at the moment, but I am work­ing with my coach, and I hope to correct this soon.’ ‘When that happens to me,’ said Stevie, ‘I just put my golf bag to one side for a week or two, and whenever I return to play, I discover that my problem has righted itself.’ Tiger was surprised, as he asked, ‘Surely you don’t play golf?’ ‘Of course, I do,’ replied Stevie. ‘How can you play, and you blind?’ ‘I send my caddie down the fairway, he calls out, I listen to his voice, and I hit the ball in that direction. He then moves towards the green, calls out again, and I hit the ball in that direction.’ ‘But how do you putt?’ asked Tiger. ‘My caddie kneels down beside the hole, says something, and I putt in that direction.’ ‘And are you good?’ ‘Oh, yes, I’m actually a scratch golfer,’ replied Stevie. Tiger was amazed, and he suggested that they play a game together sometime. ‘Oh, it’s not that simple,’ says Stevie. ‘You see, when I began playing golf nobody took me seriously, and now I won’t play with anybody for less than $1,000 a hole.’

Tiger was really impressed, and was not put off, as he insisted that he would love to play a game with him. He asked when they might get together. Stevie replied, ‘Oh, I don’t mind. Any dark night at all. Tiger Woods is a top-class golfer, but this was one challenge for which he was not prepared!

**********
From the Connections: 

THE WORD:

Today’s Gospel is another powerful indictment of the scribes and Pharisees.  The scribes were the religious intellectuals of the time, skilled in interpreting the Law and applying it to everyday life; the Pharisees belonged to a religious fraternity (“the separated brethren”) who prided themselves on the exact, meticulous observance of the Law.  Jesus condemns them for their failure to live up to their teachings:  In their eagerness to be revered, they seek to dominate rather than to serve.  Religious ostentation and pretension are rejected in favor of the Christian ideal of leadership contained in loving service to the community.

In warning his disciples not to use of the titles “Rabbi,” “teacher” and “Father,” Jesus condemns the spirit of pride and superiority such titles connote.  Those who minister as teachers and leaders should be humbled by the fact that they are not teachers or leaders in their own right but by the inspiration and grace of God.  In the reign of God, those who exercise authority have a particular responsibility to lead by serving.

HOMILY POINTS:

In the Gospel perspective, the greatest leaders and teachers are those who share their vision of faith not in words alone but by the power and authority of their example, in the integrity of their lives, in their commitment of service toward and respect for those in their charge.

Jesus exalts those whose leadership and influence over others are centered in humble service, in selfless integrity, in respect for the hopes and dreams of others, in the ability to empathize with and reach out to the suffering and struggling, the poor and forgotten. 

For the person of faith, joy is found not in the recognition or honor that one receives in doing good but in the act of doing good itself, in realizing that we imitate Christ in such service, in the assurance that we are bringing the love of God into the lives of others. 

November 9 – Dedication of St. John Lateran [ABC]

“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” John 2: 13-22

THE WORD:

Since the 12th century, November 9 has been celebrated as the anniversary of the Lateran basilica, reputedly the first church built in the city of Rome by the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century (the site of the church was the palace of the Laterani, a noble Roman family).  Several structures have been built on the site over the centuries; the present church was built in 1646.  As the cathedral church of Diocese of Rome, it is considered the mother church of every church in Christendom. 

The Gospel for today’s feast is John’s account of Jesus’ cleansing of the temple.  While the Synoptic Gospels place Jesus’ cleansing of the temple immediately after his Palm Sunday entrance into Jerusalem, John places the event early in his Gospel, following Jesus’ first sign at Cana.  While the synoptics recount only one climactic journey to Jerusalem, the Jesus of John’s Gospel makes several trips to the holy city.

Pilgrims to the temple were expected to make a donation for the upkeep and expenses of the edifice.  Because Roman currency was considered “unclean,” Jewish visitors had to change their money into Jewish currency in order to make their temple gift.  Moneychangers, whose tables lined the outer courts of the temple, charged exorbitant fees for their service.

Visiting worshipers who wished to have a sacrifice offered on the temple altar would sometimes have to pay 15 to 20 times the market rate for animals purchased inside the temple.  Vendors could count on the cooperation of the official temple “inspectors” who, as a matter of course, would reject as “unclean” or “imperfect” animals brought in from outside the temple.

Jesus’ angry toppling of the vendors’ booths and tables is a condemnation of the injustice and exploitation of the faithful in the name of God.  So empty and meaningless has their worship become that God will establish a new "temple" in the resurrected body of the Christ.

Of course, the leaders and people do not appreciate the deeper meaning of Jesus’ words, nor did the people who witnessed his miracles understand the true nature of his Messianic mission.  John’s closing observations in this reading point to the fact that the full meaning of many of Jesus' words and acts were understood only later, in the light of his resurrection. 

HOMILY POINTS:

Today’s feast of the mother church of all Christian churches is a celebration of unity for the entire church.  In the waters of baptism flowing from every church’s font, we become brothers and sisters in Christ to every man, woman and child; at the Eucharistic table in every church, we are one family in our breaking of the one bread and the sharing of the one cup.

The word “church” comes from the Greek word ekklesia, which means “to be called out of.”  Today’s feast is an invitation to consider again what it means to be part of this ekklesia, this church and parish of disciples of the Jesus who  “calls us out of” ourselves and our own interests, our own fears and heartaches, to take on the work of discipleship: reconciliation, justice, and compassion.
 ************
Dick Hauser, S.J. 

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” 

Where does God dwell? Paul’s question  shatters the assumptions of his hearers.   Everyone knows that God dwells primary in the sacred temples constructed for worship. For the Jews this meant the temple in Jerusalem. 

Not so, says Paul to the Corinthians.   God dwells not primarily in buildings but in human beings.  The primary dwelling place of God on earth is no longer a brick and mortar building but a community of believers gathered in Jesus' name. 

Astounding news! 

Further Paul points out that by God’s grace he was chosen to be the master builder and to lay the foundation of this building by preaching  Jesus Christ.  For Jesus Christ is the foundation of the building. The community of believers through faith and baptism now become part of the building and so  share in Jesus’ holiness.  Yes, believers become the temple of God on earth!  

John’s  gospel echoes Paul’s image. Jesus says, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”  Jesus raised from the dead initiates a new order of holiness.  The former order of temple worship in Jerusalem is ended; the new order of worship in the temple of Jesus' Body is begun. And so Paul says simply:  “You are God’s building." 

The  passage from Ezekiel adds to the richness of today’s readings.   The  image of water is eloquent.  Water  flows abundantly  from the temple forming a river and reviving life of plants and animals along the  river banks. Could there be a richer image to foreshadow the life of God’s Spirit flowing from faith in Jesus and transforming every area of life?  

We Christians have the dignity of being  temples of God. To fully savor this dignity we have the challenge of naming and recognizing the Spirit’s presence renewing every area of our life.   

Lord, send forth your Spirit and renew the face of the earth!  And renew our lives! 

November 9 – 22nd Sunday after Pentecost [A]

“The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.  The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
“Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Matthew 25: 1-13

THE WORD:

These last Sundays of the year focus on the Parousia, the Lord’s return at the end of time.  The parable of the bridesmaids, found only in Matthew’s Gospel, is taken from Jesus’ fifth and final discourse in Matthew, the great eschatological discourse.

According to the Palestinian custom, the bridegroom would go to the bride’s house on their wedding day to finalize the marital agreement with his father-in-law.  When the bridegroom would return to his own home with his bride, the bridesmaids would meet them as they approached, signaling the beginning of the wedding feast.

The image of the approaching wedding feast is used by Jesus to symbolize his coming at the end of time.  Jesus’ return will take many by complete surprise.  The love we have for others as evidenced in works of kindness and compassion is the “oil” we store in our lamps awaiting for Christ's return.

HOMILY POINTS:

Instead of terrifying us or intimidating us or driving us to despair, the inevitability of the return of Christ “the Bridegroom” should make us realize the preciousness of the time we have been given and inspire us to make the most of this time, filling our “lamps” with the “oil” of compassion, justice and forgiveness as we await his coming.

Time is a gift that God gives us through which we might come to discover him and the things that are of God.  The “busy-ness” of our days can derail us from embracing the important things of life itself -- like the love of family and friends.  The wisdom of God (Reading 1) compels us to seek Christ the Bridegroom in every moment we have been given in this life until the wedding feast of the life to come.

********
ILLUSTRATIONS: 

1. From Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection:

a. Never argue with him when he's drunk!"
A man was driving without his seatbelt when he spotted a patrol car right behind him. He grabbed for the belt and put it on. But it was too late, and the red and blue lights began to flash. 

"You weren't wearing your seatbelt," said the officer. 
"Yes I was," said the man, "and if you don't believe me, ask my wife." 
"So how ABOUT it, ma'am?" asked the cop. 
"Officer," she said, "I've been married to this man for forty years, and there's one thing I've learned: Never argue with him when he's drunk! Just give him a ticket for not wearing the seat belt.”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus doesn’t bother to argue with the unjust merchants and money changers who have converted the Temple in Jerusalem into a noisy “market place” and a “den of thieves.” Instead, he frightens them with his angry order and chases them away, holding a whip in his hands. 

 b. Elephantine massage therapy:
The story has been told of a lion king that was very proud. He decided to take a walk one day to demonstrate his mastery over all the other creatures.  He strutted his way through the forest until he came across a bear, “Who is the king of the jungle, bear?”  “Why of course you are, mighty lion,” the bear said.  He went on until he found the tiger, “Who is the king of the jungle, tiger?”  “Why you are, great lion,” the tiger replied with reverence.  Next the lion found the elephant, “Who is the king of the jungle, elephant?”  The elephant instantly grabbed the lion with his trunk and spun him around a few times and slammed him to the ground.  He then stepped on him a few times and picked him up and dunked him in the water and then threw him up against a tree.  The lion staggered to his feet and said, “Look, just because you don’t know the answer, there is no reason to get so upset!” The lion was the one who wasn’t getting it.  He missed the truth just as did many of the scribes and Pharisees and Jewish priests, to whom Jesus gave an elephantine shock treatment with prophetic courage, zeal and righteous indignation as described in today’s Gospel.  

c. You may hiss at people, but don’t bite:
The story of Jesus cleansing the Temple with a whip reminds us of the old eastern story about a snake that lived in a hole on a forest path leading to a famous Hindu temple in India.  Many pilgrims would walk along the path to the pilgrimage center, and the snake would often bite people with his poisonous bite if they walked over its residence.  One time a Hindu hermit (sannyasi) was on his way to the temple and the snake jumped out to bite him, but before the snake could strike, the hermit put the snake into a trance and ordered him to stop biting people.  "It is not right to bite pilgrims with your poisonous bite," the hermit told him.  "From now on, you shall not bite anyone."  A few months later the sannyasi was passing that way again, and he noticed the snake lying in the grass beside the path.  The snake was all cut and bruised and was in an awful state.  "Whatever has happened to you, my friend?" the hermit asked.  "Since you have put your spell on me," the snake explained, “I have been unable to defend myself.  Give me back my bite."  "You foolish snake," the sannyasi answered.  "I told you not to bite anyone.  But I never said that you couldn't hiss and frighten trespassers!" In today's Gospel reading we see an angry Jesus boiling with moral indignation. If Jesus did not bite in this episode, he surely hissed, and the question we should ask about this passage is why?  He was angry that the Temple - a place of worship – was being turned into a marketplace of noise and unjust commerce; angry that the money-changers had turned a holy obligation into a lucrative profession; angry that the animals meant for sacrifices for the expiation of sins were converted into tools for unjust profit. 

2.     From Fr. Jude Botelho: 32 Sunday A 

The first reading from the Book of Wisdom personifies wisdom, as Lady Wisdom, who is to be found by all who seek her. Through divine wisdom God communicates to mankind the meaning of life and living. What we need most in life is wisdom; when we have found God we become truly wise since He guides our every step. True wisdom in a person is that quality that shows that one is truly in contact with God, and that He is, in a large measure, acting in one’s life. Wisdom can be said to be the inner light, given by God, which, is given only to those who thirst for it, seek it, love it and carefully nurture it when received.

The Parable of the Cave
Three wise men were encouraged to find what had been called the Cave of wisdom and life. They made careful preparations for what would be a challenging and arduous journey. When they reached the place of the cave, they noted a guard at the entrance. They were not permitted to enter the cave until they had spoken to the guard. He had only one question for them, and he demanded that they answer only after talking it over with one another. He assured them that they would have a guide to lead them through the regions of the cave. His question was a simple one, “How far into the Cave of wisdom and life do you wish to go?” The three travelers took counsel together and returned to the guard. Their response was, “Oh, not very far. We just want to go far enough into the cave so that we can say that we have been there.” The reaction of the guard manifested none of his great disappointment as he summoned someone to lead the three seekers a short distance into the cave, and then watched them set out again after a very short time, set out to make the journey back into their own land.

Paula Ripple in ‘Walking with Loneliness’

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells a parable of the seven wise and seven foolish virgins to remind us that we should be awake and prepared for the coming of the Lord, because we do not know at what hour he will come. The virgins stand for people who are waiting for the coming of the Lord. To be wise is to be ready and prepared for any eventuality, for what might happen. Jewish wedding ceremonies were celebrated at night. The girls who formed the procession accompanied the groom to the house of the girl’s father. No time was set. Those who were prepared were welcomed, while the unprepared were left out. Their fault wasn’t to sleep but to be unprovided for their part in the torchlight procession. Missing the feast meant losing the kingdom. The virgins typify mankind in search of purpose. Some lack resolution, others are preoccupied with the distractions and trivialities while some stay focused on their ultimate purpose.

The kingdom of heaven is like…

The kingdom of heaven is like ten young people who wanted to hear a very popular pop group that was due to arrive in town. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. When the tickets went on sale the five wise ones queued up all night and duly secured their tickets. But the five foolish ones did not bother to queue up for them. On the night of the concert they went along nevertheless, thinking that they would be able to buy tickets at the door, or that they would meet someone who would get them in. Alas, when they got there, all the tickets were gone, and they were turned away at the door. They went away with a sad and empty feeling. –Most of us know that feeling. It’s not a pleasant feeling. Still we get over it. Usually, what’s at stake is not that important –a football match, or a concert, or some such thing. Life goes on; we survive and soon forget about it. But in Jesus’ story what is at stake in nothing less than our eternal salvation.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies’

He wants the best for us

A columnist, Scott Bennett, tells the story of a man ‘Michael’, who was facing a series of devastating reversals in his life, leaving him desperate and defenseless. He had no job, his car had been repossessed, his marriage was ending, and his father had just died a month earlier. One night, in a frantic cry for help, Michael lifted up his face to the stars. And then the incredible happened. This is how he expressed it: “I felt I was one with…. call it God, call it creation… I don’t know. I do know I felt a peace that I have never known before or since. A power and a purpose was revealed to me that night that I cannot put in words. But I never doubted again that life is precious and has a purpose. –As Christians we are blessed with a faith that teaches us we have in God a compassionate father, whose thoughts are above ours as the heavens are above the earth. God who created us loves us, cares for us and will never cease pursuing what is best for us even if we fail out of human frailty. “What the caterpillar calls the end of the road, God calls a butterfly.”
James Valladares in ‘Your words, O Lord, Are Spirit, and They Are Life’

God comes to us in spite of ourselves!

A woman was at work when she received a phone call that her daughter was very sick with fever. She left her work and stopped by the pharmacy to pick up some medication for her daughter. On returning to her car she found that she had locked her keys in the car. She was in a hurry to get home to her sick daughter. She found a coat hanger there. Then she looked at the hanger and said, “I don’t know how to use this.” So she bowed her head and asked the Lord to send some help. A man got out of his car and asked her if he could help. “Please can you use this hanger to unlock my car?” she said. He said, “Sure.” He walked over to the car and in less than one minute, the car was opened. She hugged the man and through tears, she said, “Thank you so much! You are a very nice man.” The man replied, “Lady, I am not a nice man. I just got out of prison today. I was in prison for car theft and have only been out for about an hour.” The woman hugged the man again and with sobbing tears cried aloud, “Oh, Thank you God! You even sent me a professional!” –While we are all sinners, the Lord sees the good within us and keeps coming, knocking at the door of our hearts, encouraging us to come closer to him.

Tomi Thomas in ‘Spice up your homilies’

End-time or Beginning-time?


A wise monk was once playing in the fields when a friend asked him, “If God were to call you to himself right now, what would you do?” Without batting an eyelid the monk replied, “I’d continue playing here!” Blessed are those who live fully in the present, and fully prepared for any unforeseeable future. – On September 14, 2005, an Australian Jesuit colleague and friend Paddy Meagher, bade farewell to India after more than four decades of dedicated service here. He was suffering from melanoma (skin cancer) that has struck suddenly and spread over his face leaving lumps likely to affect his brain and throat. Bravely enduring his pain he said, “I know I’ll die soon and I’m prepared. Nonetheless, I’ll continue reading and writing until death comes!” Paddy died on January 5, 2006. For wise virgins like these, there is always oil in their lamps. And for many of the victims of earthquakes who call God Abba or Allah, what we see as end-time is more likely to be a beginning-time for the eternal wedding feast.

Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds’

Cared for the least of his people

There were some eyebrows raised when John XXIII was elected pope. He was in his seventies and there was no great hope that he was going to shake the Church. One of the first things he did, however, made people sit up and notice. He went in person to visit prisoners in one of Rome’s prisons. He met them as equals and chatted informally with each. He even disclosed that he himself had a relative in jail! The work and short pontificate of this man was going to open many doors, and set many prisoners free.

Jack McArdle in ‘And that’s the Gospel Truth’

Daily Vigilance

 The image of this Sunday is a group - community holding high, torches aflame with hope. Today’s readings provide our parish community with a fine opportunity to recognize our countless private and public acts of kindness to others that have burned brightly as torches of hope to others. Sunday Eucharist is a time to replenish our lamps. – One day Julie returned from school to find her pet guinea pig was missing. She rushed to her mother to ask about it. Her mother said, “I gave it away because you did not take care of it. “But I did take care of it,” she said. “Julie, I gave it away ten days ago!” – Our watchfulness should be a daily thing. Keep vigil of your marriage. A separation/divorce happens with each other’s knowledge –caused by non-vigilance. Keep vigil of your faith, Vigilance is needed in seeking God and one another.

John Pichappilly in ‘The Table of the Word’

May we make wise choices in our daily dealings inspired by God’s ever-present spirit!

**********
3.     Sermons.com

There's a true story that comes from the sinking of the Titanic. A frightened woman found her place in a lifeboat that was about to be lowered into the raging North Atlantic. She suddenly thought of something she needed, so she asked permission to return to her stateroom before they cast off. She was granted three minutes or they would leave without her.

She ran across the deck that was already slanted at a dangerous angle. She raced through the gambling room with all the money that had rolled to one side, ankle deep. She came to her stateroom and quickly pushed a side her diamond rings and expensive bracelets and necklaces as she reached to the shelf above her bed and grabbed three small oranges. She quickly found her way back to the lifeboat and got in.

Now that seems incredible because thirty minutes earlier she would not have chosen a crate of oranges over the smallest diamond. But death had boarded the Titanic. One blast of its awful breath had transformed all values. Instantaneously, priceless things had become worthless. Worthless things had become priceless. And in that moment she preferred three small oranges to a crate of diamonds.

There are events in life, which have the power to transform the way we look at the world. Jesus' parable about the ten virgins offers one of these types of events, for the parable is about the Second Coming of Christ. But Jesus doesn't come right out and say this. Rather, he lets the story describe it for him. The woman on the sinking Titanic understood, in the light of her current circumstances, that she must make preparations for living on a lifeboat. Diamonds would not suffice, only the precious resources of an orange were good enough. Likewise, in this world where Christ may return at any moment, the parable warns, we must be ready...
___________________________

Every year the National Audubon Society sponsors several regional and national "bird count" days. The next big event is scheduled for December 14. It's the famous "Christmas Bird Count." On these "bird count" days both professional ornithologists and back yard bird watchers intentionally observe, count, and identify the birds they see in their locale. Though not strictly a "scientific" survey, these "what's-in-my-back-yard" observations help scientists to get a general idea of what is happening with various bird populations. The shifts in population numbers, and the sightings of, or absence of, various species gives researchers an early "heads up" about the dynamics in bird populations and the possible environmental issues that might be affecting their success or stressing their survival.  

Bird-watchers, like "computer nerds," used to be among the most maligned, the most targeted and teased, in the world of scientific research. Stereotyped as gawky social clods wearing ugly shorts, pith helmets, and peering through giant binoculars, serious bird watchers were the ultimate odd ones out. Until.  

Until a bird watcher named Rachael Carson wrote an expose of an environmental disaster that was threatening our entire ecosystem. "Silent Spring," published in 1962, revealed the extent to which the unregulated use of chemical pesticides was toxic to the ecosystem, decimating whole populations of wildlife, impacting air and water quality, and directly related to the rise in illnesses linked to chemical exposures in human populations. Since birds variously live in the air, water, and land, and their diets vary from eating insects, fruits, seeds, berries, worms and grubs, they were the perfect target populations to keep an eye on in order to keep track of these environmental threats...
________________________
Faithful in Service 

The year was 1780. In New England there was an eerie dark day that frightened many people. At noon it was as dark as early night. The birds, as confused as the people, sang a final twilight song and fluttered off into the evening dusk. The cows came meandering home from the pasture and chickens came home to roost. Religious men fell on their knees and begged a final blessing before the end came. 

In Hartford, Connecticut the State Legislature was in session and someone moved adjournment thinking that the Day of Judgment had come. But then a legislator stood up and said, "I am against adjournment. The Day of Judgment either is approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore candles to be brought." The legislature approved his request. Have you been faithful in your service to God and your fellow man.? If the bridegroom were to come would he find you at your post? 

Staff, www.Sermons.com

 Unfinished Business

A mother wrote to Catholic Digest saying that one day when she was heading up the stairs with a basket containing the last load of folded clothes, herding her three little ones in front of her for bedtime, her eldest child, Peggy, who was then in kindergarten, picked that moment to begin one of those questions that seem to intrigue all children at some time. "Mommy," she asked, "If it were the end of the world, and everyone was getting ready to die..." The mother stopped, shifted the basket on her hip, and said an ultra-quick prayer for wisdom to answer this question. "Yes?" The mother prodded her daughter. The little girl finished her theological inquiry: "If the end of the world came, would you have to take your library books back?" That young lady did not want any unfinished business in her life.

How about you? Is there some unfinished business in your life that needs to be taken care of? Is there anything about which you would be embarrassed or ashamed if the bridegroom were to come today? 

King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com 
____________________________
 Preparedness 

John Wesley was asked what he would do if he knew his Lord would return at that time the next day. He said in effect, "I would go to bed and go to sleep; wake up in the morning, and go on with my work, for I would want Him to find me doing what he had appointed." 

Traditional
__________________________
 The Snow Approaches 

I went to the hardware store the other day to buy a snow shovel, because we all were told about a storm coming that night. Needless to say, I was not alone. The hardware store was full of other last-minute shoppers looking to do the same thing. As I stood there in line with my shovel and my bag of salt, I thought about the parable of the ten maidens, which is our text this morning, and I thought about a new way to tell the story: Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten people who sat down one night to watch the evening news. Before long, the All-Wise, All-Knowing and Always Accurate Weatherman appeared on the TV set and spoke. 

"Behold," he said, "the first snow storm of the year approaches, so be prepared. At midnight, it shall be upon you and in the morning, there shall be whiteness on the ground which shall reach up to your knees. Thus says your weatherman." Five of the ten people were prepared, so they sat comfortably in their homes and watched the rest of the news. But the other five were not prepared. They had no shovels and they wondered where they had left their winter gloves. So, they jumped into their cars and raced to the store with money in hand, desperately hoping they could lay an offering upon the altar of the Cash Register and get a shovel in return. But behold, they were too late. The door to the store was locked. The gods of commerce would accept no more offerings until the morning. The five people went home and asked their neighbors, "Do you have a shovel I can borrow?" Their neighbors said, "No, I don't. I only have one and I'll be using it tomorrow. The snow approaches and you paid no attention to the day or the hour. You should have been prepared." 

Erskine White, Together In Christ, CSS Publishing Company
________________________
 Ninety Percent Chance of Tomorrow 

Some folks in Iowa read in the weather forecast column of their local newspaper sometime back that "there is a 90% chance of tomorrow." I personally hope that the chances are better than that. But who knows? Let's not be foolish. Let's be prepared.

King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com 
___________________
 Show Up, Be Present, Be Yourself, Let Go. 

Eight words that can change your life. 

Cowboy culture is still dominated by the larger-than-life image projected by the greatest cowboy-actor of them all, John Wayne. The rough-and-tumble, heart-of-gold, good-guy character John Wayne perfected on-screen never failed to embody the qualities of honor, loyalty, bravery and commitment. 

John Wayne's cowboys didn't just look good. They were good. In the classic, "Rio Bravo," Wayne's character summed up the essence of his cowboy philosophy by declaring to a less-than-perfect sidekick "Just showing up doesn't get the job done!" 

Matthew's parable-allegory of the 10 bridesmaids seems to emphasize this same kind of message to his reader it takes more than good intentions to be a faithful member of the Christian community. In fact, being a disciple of Christ requires us to commit to eight crucial words. These eight words will direct the whole course of our lives if we take them seriously: 

Show Up, Be Present, Be Yourself, Let Go. 

Leonard Sweet, www.Sermons.com
_____________________
 The Risks of Waiting

 In early 1874 an inventor named Elisha Gray transmitted a few musical notes over a telegraph wire. He thought to himself, "If I can send music, perhaps I could send the human voice." The New York Times reported predictions of a "talking telegraph" and the public began to grow eager for it.

 Just one year later Gray believed he had the answer. Tin-can like voice chambers connected by a wire in a liquid that could turn vibrations into signals is what came into his mind. But inexplicably, he did not put his idea on paper for two months. After finally making a sketch, he waited four more days before he went to the patent office.

 When he arrived, Mr. Gray was told that just two hours earlier a school teacher had come through that same door with his own sketch and had already applied for the patent. His name was Alexander graham bell. When you compared the sketches, the voice chambers, the wire, and the liquid everything was identical. The reason we know the name Alexander graham bell and until today, never heard the name Elisha gray is simply because one man seized the opportunity when he could. The other one waited until it was too late. 

James Merritt, www.Sermons.com
____________________________
 What's Your Purpose in Life?

Josh McDowell tells about an executive "headhunter" who recruits corporate executives for large firms. This headhunter once told McDowell that when he interviews an executive, he likes to disarm him. "I offer him a drink," said the headhunter, "take off my coat, undo my tie, throw up my feet and talk about baseball, football, family, whatever, until he's all relaxed. Then, when I think I've got him relaxed, I lean over, look him square in the eye and say, 'What's your purpose in life?' It's amazing how top executives fall apart at that question." 

Then he told about interviewing one fellow recently...