32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (1 Thes 4:13-18; Mt 25:1-13) “Memories from Cementerio de la Recoleta” PDF Version
Homily for the 32nd Sunday of OT, Year A (2017): 1 Thes 4:13-18; Mt 25:1-13
Certain works of art might come to mind when you read or hear various passages from the Holy Scriptures. Whenever I read the Parable of the 5 wise and 5 foolish virgins, I am reminded of a stunning mausoleum I discovered in the world famous La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This cemetery contains thousands of mausoleums, holding the mortal remains of individuals and families, mostly from the elite and famous of the capital of Argentina, including the beloved Evita Peron.
One can spend countless hours visiting these tombs and beholding the beautiful ways in which artists created timeless memorials to the dead. The one which left a lasting impression upon me was the statue of a young woman, clothed in a white wedding robe, standing above someone’s tomb. She held in her hand a flask of oil, which she was pouring into a candelabra that contained seven candles. Six of the candles were lit and the seventh she was pouring oil into, creating a plump of smoke that ascended above.
I interpreted this young woman to represent one of the 5 wise virgins, who had plenty of oil on hand to keep the candelabra burning brightly. I interpreted further that this woman was meant to represent the soul of the person within the mausoleum, indicating that like the wise virgin, they had lived a life where they sought to follow Christ and were confident that they had their soul prepared to meet the Lord when their life would come to an end. The plume of smoke that came from the candelabra I interpreted to be the soul of the deceased ascending into heaven to receive the reward of eternal life that awaits the friends of God.
I was further struck by an inscription that was written above the statue of the wise virgin. Placed onto the mausoleum was a large cross and above it was written a well known Latin inscription “O Crux Ave Spes Unica” O Hail to the Cross, our only hope. It is only through the Cross of our Saviour that we can have hope of eternal life, motivating us like the wise virgins to be vigilant and ready to meet The Lord, in both the Cross we experience in this life to purify our hearts and in the certainty we possess that a life lived with Him is not in vain.
As I departed from this tomb, having prayed for the person within, I was reminded that a Christian must never forgot that while Our Lord has delayed His Second Coming to a day and hour that is unknown to us, He implores us to not become drowsy and complacent, falling asleep in the comfort of sin and the passing pleasures of this life and leading us to be less and less prepared for His Arrival in Glory, when the time will be up for us to make amends for the ways we neglected to live as His disciples, and to be ready to face judgement and the only two possible outcomes of said judgement: to dine with the Lord at the Heavenly Banquet or to find the door shut and the eternal and inescapable fire waiting…
During the month of November and into the first two weeks of Advent, our Church calls us through the liturgy to ponder what is for many a question they would rather not consider: Is my soul ready to meet the Lord at the moment of death? Some might ignore the question by saying that God is too kind and loving to allow me to endure eternal separation from him in that lake of fire we call hell. Such a mindset was that of the foolish virgins in today’s parable, presuming that God in His mercy would not allow them to be lost and that their place at the wedding banquet was all but determined. Yet when the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, arrived and found them unprepared to greet Him with souls set free from sin and a treasury of good works credited to their name, very clearly we see that they were excluded from the feast and left to the outer darkness, which Jesus frequently called that place of the weeping and gnashing of teeth.
No one needs to be told they are excluded from the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, yet everyone must realise that to be denied entrance into heaven is one’s own fault. And so we must face ourselves everyday and ask, am I ready to meet the Lord because today may just be my last?
St Paul shows us today that the First Christians lived with a spirit of eager expectation and preparation to meet Christ again. They were confident that His Second Coming was soon, so much so that they began to wonder if their brothers and sister in Christ who had died were somehow at a disadvantage for not being alive when Jesus would return in glory?
St Paul affirmed them that whether one was alive when Christ returned or had already passed away, both would have the equal joy of meeting the Lord, witnessing how the heavens would resound with the sounds of trumpets and the call of St. Michael the Archangel for the dead to rise to new life and those still living would also experience resurrection, as they witnessed their earthly bodies experience a transformation to become like the Resurrected Body of Jesus Christ.
In addition, this month of November is one that we are asked by Christ and the Church to practice that spiritual work of mercy known as praying for the dead.
One could call the Holy Souls in Purgatory to be very much like the wise virgins of today’s gospel, in so far as they lived holy lives and died in a state of sanctifying grace that would assure them a place at the heavenly banquet. But the souls in Purgatory are also somewhat like the foolish virgins, in so far as they left this life not being totally ready to dine with the Lord on account of the remains of sin and their consequences which still clung to their souls and made them not yet ready to see God face to face.
The Holy Souls are more wise than foolish, and so in His mercy, God will allow them a place at His wedding feast but only after they have been entirely purified. However, they are unable to accomplish their purification by their own merits and rely on us to assist them in this final immersion into Divine Mercy.
We can do so in many ways: By having Masses offered for our beloved dead, by offering our own prayers for them, by visiting cemeteries and praying for them, by offering small sacrifices and penances for them and trusting that the love we had for others in this life does not end in this world but extends into eternity whenever we pray or do good works on their account.
Let us now take a few moments in silence to pray for our beloved dead, asking God to show them mercy and to bring them to that place of light, happiness and peace.