THIRTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY, November 8, 2020
(Wisdom 6: 12-16; I Thessalonians 4: 13-18; Matthew 25: 1-13)
This year there has been no lack of exhortation to be forward-thinking. Since March the entire world has been urged to clean their hands, maintain social distance, and wear a mask. These measures are insisted upon to limit the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Because health is valued, we need to take care of ourselves in these and other ways. In the Gospel, Jesus exhorts his disciples to be foresighted with the parable of the ten virgins. He does not have in mind the health of the body but that of the soul.
The parable warns us to prepare for the return of Jesus at the end of time. After almost two thousand years we wonder if Jesus is going to return. Some Christians say, "No", that the return refers to his resurrection from the dead. But we Catholic Christians look forward to his coming at the end of time, although we have no idea when it will happen. We note that the parable mentions a delay in the return.
We prepare for his coming by doing good works. The five virgins bring extra oil to keep their lamps burning if the husband is late. Lighted lamps are a symbol for good works. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught his disciples: "'Let your light shine before all, so that when they see your good works, they glorify your Father who is in heaven.'” With the parable of the virgins, Jesus tells the disciples that if they have not done many good works for others, they will be left out of the kingdom.
Visiting the sick has always been considered a good deed. Now with the pandemic, all the elderly are taken as sick in a sense. If they contract the Covid virus, they are in danger of death. Therefore, they have isolated themselves in their homes away from the bustle of people. However, by isolating themselves from their families and friends, the elderly often experience deep loneliness. It can be particularly depressing during the holidays. So we should think of ways to correspond with the elderly in November and December.
Of course, we want to attend to our own family members first. We should call them continuously if we cannot be with them in person. The other day the newspaper described the dilemma of a family whose mother lives in another town hundreds of miles distant. Usually the woman gets on a plane to spend Thanksgiving with her children and grandchildren. But this year not only the plane but also being in the midst of children run considerable risks. The family has to double their efforts to be with their mother virtually. In addition to communicating with Skype they can send you the traditional foods of the season.
But our charity has to extend beyond the family if our light will shine "before all." There are many lonely people in nursing homes, whether the homes are upscale or basic. Some of the elderly do not have children to visit them. In other cases the children have abandoned them. We find ways to comfort them even with Covid's restrictions.
Soon we will be asking each other if we are ready for Christmas. Of course, we will mean if we have bought gifts and decorated the Christmas tree. This year we will want to prepare for Christmas also by doing good works for the elderly, both relatives and those till strangers. We should think of Christmas as a rehearsal for the Lord's return at the end of time. We will be preparing for Jesus.