A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (# 50)

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – November 6, 2005

 

“Behold, the Bridegroom!”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Wis 6:12-16 // I Thes 4:13-18 // Mt 25:1-13

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS

 

The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids (Mt 25:1-13), which is part of Jesus’ eschatological discourse as recorded by Matthew, is one of the three concluding parables in his Gospel account. These parables exhort Christians to prepare themselves for the Lord’s return at the end of time. Together with the Parable of the Conscientious Steward (Mt 24:45-51), which is read on Thursday of the Twenty-first Week, and the Parable of the Talents (Mt 25:14-30), which is proclaimed on the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, this Sunday’s eschatological parable makes us understand how to live today in the perspective of the Day that will not fail to come. Theologically, the story of the wise and foolish virgins is appropriate for towards the end of the liturgical year the focus of the Church is on our need for preparedness for the end time.

 

The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, comment on the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Bridesmaids: “Like many others, this parable is based on a fact, a situation of ordinary life. It tells of a custom connected with the wedding celebration. The bridesmaids – the ten young girls – went to the bride’s house, waiting with her until the bridegroom came to lead her to his home. Then people went in a cortege to the wedding hall. But it happens that unusual, even unlikely, traits are introduced into a narrative to make a point. There are several in our case: the interminable lateness of the bridegroom, who keep people waiting until the middle of the night; the errand of the five maidens wanting to buy oil, as if they thought it possible to find a shop open at that hour; the closing of the banquet hall door, so contrary to the customs of oriental hospitality … It would be out of place to quibble with these improbable features of the story. A parable is not a narrative of event, retold with exactitude down to its minutest details. Storytellers can legitimately put in exaggerated traits that fit their purposes. This is done knowingly and fools no one. This being understood, the lesson of the parable is clear. We shall be kept waiting for the Lord’s coming; unforeseeable, it will happen suddenly. At that moment, everything will be lost for those who were taken by surprise. Others will not be able to help them. The improvident ones will find a closed door in the kingdom where the wedding of the Son of Man is celebrated.”

 

This Sunday’s eschatological parable speaks of two types of bridesmaids: the foolish and the wise. Harold Buetow explains: “Why were the foolish foolish? Because they did not reflect on the leitmotifs of life, and so they did not realize that this wedding feast, which as usual in the Scriptures represented eternal salvation, was everything. To be there called for the investment of one’s whole being. They risked only a tentative investment, while being engaged in other interests. So they did not come to the final accounting well prepared … Why were the wise wise? Because they reflected on life and were experts at making the surpluses of life subordinate to their main interests.” Indeed, the five foolish maidens illustrate the utter lack of wisdom of those who do not reckon with God. The five wise maidens highlight the vigilant hearts of believers who have prepared themselves for their final encounter with God.

 

The Bridegroom in the Parable of the Ten Virgins represents Christ, the awaited one of the parousia. The biblical scholar, Eugene Maly explicates: “Here is the heart of parousia, full enjoyment of the Kingdom with the Lord and with one another. The parable in Matthew’s Gospel gives us further insight. The groom represents the Christ awaited in his parousia. The midnight hour does not mean a designated time. Rather it conveys the uncertainty (they are in the dark) concerning the time of his coming. The two groups of bridesmaids represent those who will and will not share in the event. Preparedness is the ultimate criterion. The theme of preparedness is certainly one of the reasons why the Church reminds us of the parousia at several places in the Eucharistic prayer. If our eyes are on that glorious goal, we are more likely to keep our spiritual lamps lit and ready for that reception.”

 

Through Christ’s paschal mystery, the time of the parousia, in a certain sense, has begun. Even now, the Church begins to experience Christ’s parousia through an intimate participation in his paschal mystery. According to Eugene Maly: “Just as the groom did not appear out of nowhere, but had to approach the trysting place, so the Lord is already on his way. In fact, his approach began at the time of his death and exaltation. Those were the sources of his saving power, the paschal mystery that contained within it the final saving coming. So, just as the Church continually rises to her source in the paschal mystery, she continually rises to meet the coming Lord. The parousia, in this sense, is now. When we rise to meet him now in the Eucharist, we are also rising to meet him at the end. Like personified wisdom in the first reading, Christ is searching for us. When we look forward to meeting him, he graciously appears to us in the way and meets us with solicitude. Then we experience parousia.”

 

 

PERSONAL REFLECTION

by Marilou Lico APC-fdm

(Member: ASSOCIATION OF PAULINE COOPERATORS – Friends of the Divine Master))

 

            In the Jewish tradition, the bridegroom and his friends would go and fetch the bride from her family. The ceremony took place at night. The bridegroom’s party set off to arrive at the bride’s home after sunset. The bridesmaids would escort the bride and the groom to the groom’s family where the party would take place. They carried lighted lamps for their journey and would sing a love song on their way.

            The bridegroom is Christ. The bride is the Church (cf. Rev 22:17). The ten bridesmaids represent the totality of the members of the Church. The Lamp represents our faith. The oil, which some of them had and the others did not have, represents good works. The lamp without oil is like a “faith” without good works, dead and useless (cf. James 2:17)

            As we draw closer to the end of the liturgical year, the Church invites us to contemplate the end – the end of our lives and the end of the world. The way to prepare is not to live in fear and anxiety. The Son of Man will come again to judge the living and the dead. How and when? We do not know for sure. The best way to prepare is to follow the example of the five virgins who took enough oil to keep their lamps burning. Let us engage and persevere in doing good to keep our faith alive. Be ready and let us prepare ourselves for the Lord’s coming, no matter when the Lord chooses to come.

 

 

II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART

 

A.    What is the personal significance of the wedding feast of the Bridegroom mentioned in this Sunday’s Gospel?

B.     In what ways are we the foolish bridesmaids? In what ways are we the wise bridesmaids?

C.     Do we believe that the parousia is, in a sense, already here? How do we deepen our spirit of preparedness for the Lord’s parousia?

 

 

III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD

(Cf. Commission Francophone Cistercienne, La nuit, le jour, 28 – Fiche de chant P LH 107, 109 // Days of the Lord, vol. 4, Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1992, p. 249)

 

Leader: Wakefulness in our hearts,

a lamp lighted by the Lord,

renews itself at his flame

as we sing our joy with one voice.

Assembly: Stay awake and be ready!

For you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

 

Leader: May thanksgiving watch in us

as the flower of the almond tree

which, the earliest, glimpses from afar

the coming summer and its harvest.

Assembly: Stay awake and be ready!

For you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

 

Leader: May our love and his praise

be the two wings of the morning

which unfold in prayer

and take us far from ourselves.

Assembly: Stay awake and be ready!

For you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

                                                                                                  

Leader: Here is the Bridegroom calling us:

let us run to the Lamb’s nuptials!

But how long the road seems:

when will you dawn, last morning?

Assembly: Stay awake and be ready!

For you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

 

 

IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD

            The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the week. Please memorize it.

 

            “Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!” (Mt 25:6)

 

 

V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION

 

A.    ACTION PLAN: Pray that the hearts of Christian believers may always be on watch and that the uncertainty of the Lord’s coming evoke greater watchfulness and preparedness on our part. In order to keep our lamps burning for the Lord’s coming, offer an act of charity daily on behalf of the world’s poor and the marginalized of the society.

 

B.     ACTION PLAN: To help us be prepared and ready for the coming of Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church, make an effort to spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration. Visit the PDDM WEB site (www.pddm.us) for the EUCHARISTIC ADORATION THROUGH THE LITURGICAL YEAR (# 50): A Weekly Pastoral Tool for the Year of the Eucharist.

 

 

 

Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang  PDDM

 

 

 

PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER

60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314

Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323

Website: WWW.PDDM.US

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