I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | Wisdom helps prepare us for God’s heavenly banquet

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There is a cliché in business journals that goes something like this: "If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there."

A similar question we need to ask ourselves is this: "Based upon my present behaviors, where is my life leading me?"

The first reading for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time speaks of the gift of wisdom, saying it is resplendent and unfading and "is readily perceived by those who love her and is found by those who seek her."

Have I found this gift of wisdom? How do I recognize this gift? What does it do for me?

The gift of wisdom ultimately leads to peace, but not before it has stirred up a lot of un-easiness and discontent. Wisdom is a God-given gift that helps us to see whether our actions please or displease God. If our actions displease God, wisdom will give us no rest until we change our behavior.

The author of the Book of Wisdom continues: "She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire; whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed, for he shall find her sitting at his gate." If we find the gift of wisdom too uncomfortable, we simply ignore it and choose to live apart from it. In making this choice, we don't want to be reminded of God's desires for our lives; we have more important and more desirable things to do. What then happens is that "darkness follows."

God won't simply let us wander away, but will arrange circumstances so that we again turn to Him to relieve our suffering or discontent. That is when we find wisdom sitting nearby.

The author continues: "For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence, and whoever for her keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care, because she makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her and graciously appears to them in the ways, and meets them with all solicitude."

The author's point is clear: those who persist in seeking wisdom choose to keep vigil for wisdom, and then wisdom sets them free from care. In the depths of their heart, they nurture a desire to embrace God's will, and this gives peace with God and a sense of peace about their life's direction.

This is an excellent setup for the Gospel. Jesus is coming to the end of His earthly ministry and tries one more way to show His people where His teachings will lead them, if they follow them.

Jesus uses the wedding banquet to symbolize the kingdom of heaven. He spent three years sending out invitations to this wedding banquet. This banquet is the eternal glory of heaven with an eternal feast of praise, thanksgiving and honor to our God who chose to marry sinful mankind in order to take humans out of sinfulness to share in the eternal banquet of glory the Father had in store for those who accepted His Son's invitation.

"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."

The foolish did not bring any flasks of oil with them, so they couldn't enter the wedding banquet.

The reference to the lamps burning ready is a reference to the oil lamp in the Holy of Holies, which burned night and day before the Lord's special presence, both in the tent during the sojourn, but also later in the temple in Jerusalem. The oil surrendered itself to be consumed by fire to create light and to shed light on God's special presence.

In the context of the Gospel, Jesus uses the oil to symbolize our state of soul. Is our soul surrendered to God so that He may use us as He wants, or do we have strong attachments to our self-will? Do we allow His fire of love to burn in our hearts, daily purifying us of self-will and sinfulness? Have we surrendered our lives to God as a living sacrifice?

After all, Jesus is the bridegroom, and the Father throws this banquet for His Son Jesus, the bridegroom. We are all virgins invited to be His bride and to surrender ourselves totally to Him as He surrendered Himself totally on the Cross for our salvation. In that total surrender, God can take us totally into Himself for all eternity.

The questions we need to ask ourselves are: "Am I using the gift of wisdom on a daily basis to guide my life's choices, or do I leave this review of life mostly for monthly confession? Do I daily take an assessment of my relationship with God and make the appropriate adjustments of sorrow for sin and the renewing of my purpose of amendment? How will I prepare for tomorrow's unknown surprises?"

The way this past week has gone in my life indicates the coming week will be similar unless I choose to let grace intervene. What grace do I need from God to surrender my inner self more fully? What prayer form or what corporal or spiritual work of mercy would fill the hunger of my soul? What charitable gift would relieve my soul's thirst for God? Who, for example, has done me an injury, and I have not yet interceded for that person?

I leave you with Christ's final words from the Gospel reading: "Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour." 

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