Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, December 6, 2020, Year B

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
La Salette Missionaries of North America
Hartford, Connecticut

We read today in 2 Peter, “The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.” This salutary but unsettling reminder of what is to come makes me think of one of the “Holy Sonnets” of the 17th century poet and essayist John Donne. It begins with the words:

“What if this present were the world’s last night?”

“What if?” indeed! If we knew we had such little time, how would we spend it? Rush to the nearest confessional? Seek out the people we love most? Just cower in fear?

The poet is not afraid. He invites his soul to look into his heart and see there the image of Christ crucified, which for him is beautiful and offers him assurance of mercy.

We should note that St. Peter’s imagery is not simply about destruction. He follows immediately with this: “But according to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

Similarly Isaiah, who is quoted in Mark’s, is not suggesting that valleys be filled in and mountains be made low in a destructive way. The point is to make a straight, direct route for God to come to his people. Anyone living in a mountainous area knows how travel times can be doubled and tripled by winding roads.

John the Baptist is “the voice” calling for the straight path. There are many singers and actors famous for their voice. John is famous for his voice, but in a different way. He is the herald, not drawing attention to himself but to the one who is to come after him.

Have you ever had the experience of imagining what someone looks like, based only on the sound of his or her voice? I once was curious enough to search the Internet for a picture of Steve Zirnkilton, whose voice introduces every episode of all three Law & Order series on television (“In the criminal justice system...,” etc.). I was surprised and amused to see how far off I was! His appearance seemed so unlikely to me.

There are prophetic voices around us even today, calling us to fill in valleys and make mountains low. Often they are unlikely prophets, hard for us to recognize.

Mountains and valleys constitute obstacles. The valleys and mountains of Isaiah are not the physical ones that would require engineers to level out. The ups and downs and winding roads are in the “wasteland” that our hearts can sometimes be. Mountains of self-importance, of greed, of whatever makes us think we are above the human condition. Ravines of jealousy, of self-pity, of whatever drags us down and stifles hope. We all have them at times, and in an infinite variety of forms.

Maybe there is an unlikely prophet, a voice crying in our desert, to help us.

Be that as it may the question remains: How can I, how can you, make a straight path for the Lord into our lives and hearts? How can we prepare for the new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells”?

Homily for the 1st Sunday of Advent, November 29, 2020, Year B

Christ's agony in the Garden

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
La Salette Missionaries of North America
Hartford, Connecticut

I have a revelation to make.

What does that statement make you expect? A personal confession? Some new scandal in the Church? An interesting secret, or some news that will amaze or disappoint you?

One way or another, the statement probably sparked your interest.

In today’s reading from St. Paul, we find a similar idea: “You are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Christians of Corinth, who are already believers, are waiting for another revelation.

As we begin a new year in the life of the Church, we do so with a sense of anticipation. In this respect Advent is quite different from Lent. Both use purple vestments, both omit the Gloria at Mass, both are meant to be a sober preparation for a great feast to follow. Still, have you ever heard of making “Advent resolutions”?

For whatever reason, Advent isn’t usually experienced as a time for taking stock, for conversion. From that point of view, today’s first reading from Isaiah comes as a surprise with its heavily penitential tone: “Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people... and our guilt carries us away like the wind.”

In Advent we look less inward than outward. Instead of recurring themes of mercy and forgiveness, we sing “O come, O come, Emmanuel!” In the responsorial Psalm we read, “Rouse your power and come to save us.” Even Isaiah cries out: “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!”

This is definitely an upbeat season. It is time for God to act. We perceive ourselves as needing only to be ready and waiting.

Now it is just possible that this need to be ready and waiting may challenge us to make some important changes in our life. There are, after all, so many distractions. Christmas itself, since it involves shopping and decorations and parties, becomes a distraction from Advent. These things are inevitable, so we do have to make a serious effort to maintain the focus on the revelation that is to come.

There is an almost seamless transition from the end of one liturgical year and the beginning of the next. Just last Sunday we had the perspective of the final coming of Christ as Judge. The week before that we had the parable of the master returning and settling accounts with his servants. Today we are told to be like servants expecting the master’s return.

There is a difference, nonetheless. Over the last few weeks we have been anticipating the final and definitive revelation in the Second Coming of Christ. As we say in the Creed: “He will come again in glory... and his kingdom will have no end.” This is the faith of the Church.

In Advent, our horizon is not so vast. While waiting for the Ultimate Revelation, we also live in expectation of what we might call intermediate revelations.

I am not talking about any new public or private revelation as distinct from that already received and transmitted by the Church. What I mean is that Advent is a perfect time for us to be especially attentive, for example, to the readings at Mass, so that we might experience that revelation in a new, personal way.

Ideally this would become our way of life as Christians, not limited to these four weeks. As Jesus says: “May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.”

Advent teaches us to expect God to surprise us, to expect him to say, “I have a revelation to make.” That should spark our interest!

Plenary Indulgence on the Solemnity of Christ the King, November 22, 2020

Christ the King

A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who participate in the public recitation of the "Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ King."

Requirements for Obtaining a Plenary Indulgence on the Feast of Christ the King:

◗ Publicly recite the prayer, "Most Sweet Jesus, Redeemer – Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ King" (see below)

◗ Say one "Our Father" and one "Hail Mary" for the Pope’s intentions (those intentions designated by the Holy Father each month).

◗ Worthily receive Holy Communion (ideally on the same day).

◗ Make a sacramental confession within 20 days of the Feast of Christ the King.

◗ For a plenary indulgence, be free from all attachment to sin, even venial sin (or the indulgence is partial, not plenary).

You may gain one plenary indulgence a day.

Most Sweet Jesus, Redeemer - Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ the King (Iesu dulcissime, Redemptor)

Most Sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before You. We are Yours, and Yours we wish to be; but to be more surely united with You, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to Your Most Sacred Heart. Many indeed have never known You; many, too, despising Your precepts, have rejected You. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to Your Sacred Heart.

Be King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken You, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned You; grant that they may quickly return to their Father’s house, lest they die of wretchedness and hunger.

Be King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbor of Truth and the unity of Faith, so that soon there may be but one flock and one Shepherd.

Grant, O Lord, to Your Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give tranquility of order to all nations; make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: Praise to the Divine Heart that wrought our salvation; to It be glory and honor forever. Amen.

27. A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful, who piously recite the above Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ the King, if it is recited publicly on the feast of our Lord Jesus Christ the King, and piously carry out the precepts in Norm 23...

A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who piously recite the above Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ King.

From the Enchiridion of Indulgences.

Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Her Life and Miracles

Saint Elizabeth of Hungary

Memorial - November 17th 

There are people who make a lasting impact on the world even though their earthly lives are very short. Saint Elizabeth of Hungary or Saint Elizabeth of Thuringia was just such a person. Both a king’s daughter and a king’s wife, her love and care for the poor led her to be beloved by the common people during her life, and resulted in her canonization a mere four years after her death.

Elizabeth, daughter of the king of Hungary, was born in 1207. In 1221, at the age of 14, she married Louis IV of Thuringia (Germany), He ascended the Thuringian throne at the age of 16. Over the next six years Elizabeth would bear him three children. The couple were deeply in love and very devoted to each other. Louis fully supported his young wife in her spiritual life and in her prodigious efforts aiding the destitute. This included selling state treasures to assist the needy.

Tragically, in 1227, Louis died on the Sixth Crusade after promising Emperor Frederick II he would take up the cross and accompany him to the Holy Land. Elizabeth was devastated. When an uncle arranged a second marriage for her the following year, she fled to the city of Marburg where she joined the Third Order of Saint Francis. There, she built a hospital for the indigent and the sick with money from her dowry. She continued to minister to the poor until her death in 1231.

Miracles attributed to her during her life and at her grave coupled with the love ordinary people felt for her led Pope Gregory IX to canonize her in 1235. Popular piety records two miracles of note. In the miracle of the roses, a young Elizabeth hides in her shawl food for the indigent from her family's' table. Upon entering the slums, she is met by her future husband (Louis) who inquires as to what she is hiding. Embarrassed, Elizabeth opens her mantle to reveal a bouquet of roses.

Another miracle associated with Elizabeth tells how she cared for the leper Helias of Eisenach in the bed she shared with her husband. Her shocked mother-in-law, informed Louis on his return. When Louis unwrapped the bandages from the convalescing figure on the bed, "Almighty God opened the eyes of his soul, and instead of a leper he saw the figure of Christ crucified stretched upon the bed."

Prayer for St. Elizabeth of Hungary's Intercession

St. Elizabeth of Hungary is the patron of Catholic charities and bakers. Almighty ever-loving God, by whose gift St. Elizabeth of Hungary recognized and revered Christ in the poor, grant, through her intercession, that we may serve with all unfailing charity the needy and afflicted. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. St. Elizabeth, inspired by your example, may we duly love the Christ in others.

Homily for the Solemnity of Our Lord Christ the King, November 22, 2020, Year A

Christ the King

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
La Salette Missionaries of North America
Hartford, Connecticut

This is one scary Gospel. It is part of the inspiration for the Sequence we used to sing at funerals, Dies irae, dies illa... “That day will be a day of wrath.” Near the end, the text reads:

Grant me a place among the sheep,
and take me out from among the goats,
setting me on the right side.

Can it be that our eternal fate depends on our response to those in need? Does faith no longer count for anything?

No, faith has not lost its preeminent place. It is precisely as believers that we are challenged to put faith into action. The Letter of James has the famous passage: “If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” And in the previous verse we read, “The judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy.”

There is, of course, the question of what to do.

Is it enough to admire the Mother Teresas and Dorothy Days and get out of the way and let them do their great work and applaud them?

Is it enough to give to good causes, from a safe distance, so to speak? This is not a bad thing, of course. No one could be condemned for it.

Is it enough to volunteer in various charities?

These are the wrong questions. It is not enough to ask what is enough. The question itself lends itself to settling for the minimum, to finding the exact placement of the fine line between “I can’t do everything” and “I won’t do anything.”

The starting point, you see, isn’t the what, the external actions and good works. It’s the attitude, more specifically, in our case, the Christian attitude that seeks to imitate Jesus in every way: his kindness, his respect, his welcoming way, his concern, his thirst for justice, etc.—in short, never the minimum, always generous, a kind of “magnificent obsession.”

There are those whose job description absolutely requires them to tend to the needs of the poor and oppressed. In the reading from Ezekiel. God says that he himself will tend the sheep, seek the lost, bind up the injured, and so on. The context, however, is a ferocious condemnation of the “official” shepherds who failed to do these things.

Now back to the what.

Most of us do in fact respond to the needs of those who are hungry and thirsty by donating money or food to various agencies, volunteering time at soup kitchens and community Thanksgiving meals, etc. The same may well apply to “I was naked and you clothed me,” while “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” is definitely more of a challenge.

Most of us visit the sick at one time or another. Visiting prisoners is a more specialized ministry, that some do choose to take on.

Is that the whole list? I am reminded of a hymn we used to sing when I was in a parish in England, in which we hear Jesus saying:
Look around you, can you see?
Times are troubled, people grieve.
See the violence, feel the hardness;
All my people, weep with me.
Walk among them, I'll go with you.
Reach out to them with my hands.
Suffer with me, and together
We will serve them, help them stand.
If we look around us, we can add to the list, and maybe see where our personal strengths lie for reaching out to “the least of Christ’s brethren.”

I was unemployed, and you hired me.
I was abused, and you rescued me.
I was lonely, and you gave me a call, you sent me a card.
I needed to talk, and you listened to me.

I was old and confused, and you were patient with me.
I was ignorant, and you treated me with respect.

This is not a checklist. It’s a list of hints and suggestions for creatively generous hearts.

Homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 15, 2020, Year A

Parable of The Talents

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

The gospel accounts of last weekend, this weekend and next weekend are all taken from the 24th and 25th chapters of St. Matthew. The teachings presented in them by Christ are his last ones before he was to enter into Jerusalem and there be put to death. They are his final testament to his disciples, intended to guide them and us in the “already but not yet” time, that time between his presence here on earth and his Second Coming at the end of the world. These final teachings are therefore of great importance. And, when you plumb them to their depths, they are challenging – even menacing.

Last week’s parable told us about the five wise and the five foolish virgins. The foolish ones did not look ahead and make provision for the coming of the bridegroom. They were guilty of the sin of presumption – presuming that in their lack of oil for their lamps the wise ones would provide for them. Their even greater presumption was that once they finally arrived at the banquet the bridegroom would let them, along with the others who had prepared themselves, into the wedding feast. They found the door slammed in their faces.

Today’s parable is about the servant who lacked courage, and who being fear-driven, was consequently unproductive, excusing himself by accusing his master of being a hard man. This servant, like the foolish virgins, was looking for an excuse. He was in a state of denial, denying his own responsibilities.

Next weekend we will be hearing about others who were do-nothings, who were unproductive, and who found themselves to be outsiders because they ignored all that God had given them.

God has given us enormous treasures, talents, in Christ his Son. We have a powerful currency, the powers that God has given us. Christ is interested in productivity. He isn’t looking for passive dependent persons to follow him, to be his post-Ascension agents here on earth. He wants, rather, gamblers and risk-takers to be his followers and to vivify his Church. Doesn’t it strike you that the parables of Jesus center on farming, fishing and business activities, all involving risk–taking? Remember the man who found the pearl of great price and then risked all of his net worth to acquire it? Remember the fishing episodes when Jesus asked Peter to throw out his nets yet again even though he had gone through the whole night without catching a single fish? And remember, too, that episode when Jesus came upon a poor little fig tree that produced nothing and thereupon was going to annihilate it, but held back when the landscaper asked him to wait a year so he could manure it, tend it, and bring it to bear fruit.

Christianity without courage is Christianity without blood and spirit. God encourages us to jump into life and run the risk of growing. It doesn’t take courage to hide in our fear. It takes courage to risk something new.

All around us these days we hear talk about our sluggish economy. Experts, pundits, and commentators incessantly present us tiny bits of evidence upon which they predict that our economy is turning around and will come roaring back in another year. Productivity figures are bandied about. The University of Michigan Consumer Confidence Index is cited over and over again by Wall Street analysts and commentators.

What are our economists all looking for? Risk-takers! Go out and spend, they tell us. Invest, buy and get the currency changing hands again, they insist.

I hope you also notice that they are all asking us to have faith, to make faith-based decisions, to act, and act boldly, on faith.

Well, Christ is giving us the same challenge. He’s telling us that faith isn’t something we can get and keep all to ourselves. Rather it is the currency of the Divine Economy, the engine that drives it. And faith isn’t something we can hide, clutch, and hold only unto ourselves. It needs to be invested in the lives of others and thereby multiplied. Only then can it possibly bear fruit. Only then can our world get better. We were given the Faith not simply to save our own skins… but to save the world!

Turning the other cheek is a profound risk. It requires a tremendous investment in self-confidence to turn the other cheek. So does forgiving seventy-times seven times. One takes a tremendous risk when one tells another “I love you” and “I want to belong to you for the rest of our lives.” Assuming that others, even your adversaries, are acting in good faith requires a great expenditure of your spiritual capital. Showing compassion and giving tender loving care to those who are anything but loveable, who are self-concerned, self-centered and grasping, requires an investment of your own risk capital.

Having the courage to be openly Catholic is something that is personally demanding to each one of us here. It’s not easy to stand up for good priests and defend them in the face of the withering scorn directed at them and our Church these days, especially by the cultured despisers of religion and who are regular opinion columnists in our elite media.

Coming to Mass, especially when it’s not convenient, requires a risk, a risk that must be made in order to increase your own spiritual productivity, not the sort of productivity that benefits just you yourself, but that which is productive of good fruit in the lives of those around you.

There’s a lot of talk these days about accountability, usually the accountability that must be made by others – social media executives, business executives, Wall Street banking and investment house officials, and Roman Catholic bishops. And I’m happy that they are being called into account.

But what about us? Do we realize that we too will face our own Day of Judgment; that our own little world will one day come to an end? What about our own productivity and accountability? Are our decisions fear-based or faith-based?

These last Sundays, bringing us to the end of the Church year, ought to challenge us – even disturb us. While it is true that Jesus is meek and mild, boundlessly compassionate and merciful, and that he loves us unconditionally, it is likewise true that he has great and high expectations of us. After all, God our Father didn’t create us to do nothing. It’s what he created us for that ought to occupy our attention, disturb our conscience, and prod us into spiritual productivity.

How else can we reveal God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven?

Mary Reaches Out to Us: A Reflection for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Parable of the Talents

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.

La Salette Missionaries of North America

(Proverbs 31:10-31; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6; Matthew 25:14-30)

The last verses of the Book of Proverbs are in praise of the “worthy wife.” Among other things, “She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy.”

This image reminds me of a bronze statue of Our Lady of La Salette, sculpted by Brother Juan Magro Andrés, M.S., depicting the precise moment when the Weeping Mother lifts her head from her hands, looks up at the two startled children on the hillside, and holds out her hands to them, saying, “Come closer, children, don’t be afraid.”

Mary reached out to them in their poverty and ignorance and, through them, to her People, also materially poor, and seemingly ignorant of the depths of their spiritual poverty.

In today’s parable we have a record of success and failure. Two servants are promoted for their successful investments. The third tries to justify himself, laying the blame on his master’s severity; but he is rightly fired for incompetence.

We are quite willing to take credit for our well-being when all is well. But when life fails to meet our expectations, we are prone to blame. It’s someone else’s fault, even God’s.

At La Salette the Blessed Virgin spoke twice about those who abused the name of her Son—the cart-drivers in general, then the farmers whose potatoes were rotting in the ground. By using the Lord’s name, they were blaming God for their troubles.

Mary tells us to look at ourselves. She speaks words we never like to hear: “It’s your own fault.”

In the message of La Salette, we have a record of failure and need—on two levels, material and spiritual—and a prospect of success and abundance.

The failure of crops was due to blight and bad weather. The failure of the people was on the level of faith. The Beautiful Lady draws the connection between these two kinds of poverty.

In reaching out to us, she offers a solution that we may sum up in the words of today’s Psalm: “Blessed are you who fear (i.e., deeply respect) the Lord, who walk in his ways!... Blessed shall you be, and favored.”

Reminder: Indulgences Are Available During the Poor Souls Octave (November 1st through 8th)

One may obtain a plenary indulgence for a soul in purgatory by devoutly visiting a cemetery and praying for the departed (even if the prayer is only mental) each day between November 1st - 8th.

Requirements for Obtaining a Plenary Indulgence During the Poor Souls Octave:

◗ Visit a cemetery and pray for a soul in Purgatory.

◗ Say one "Our Father" and the "Apostles Creed".

◗ Say one "Our Father" and one "Hail Mary" for the Holy Father’s intentions.

◗ Worthily receive Holy Communion (ideally on the same day).

◗ Make a sacramental confession within 20 days of All Souls Day.

◗ For a plenary indulgence, be free from all attachment to sin, even venial sin (or the indulgence is partial, not plenary).

You may gain one plenary indulgence a day.

A partial indulgence can be obtained when the Eternal Rest (Requiem aeternam) is prayed. This can be prayed all year, but especially during the month of November:

Requiem aeternam dona ei (eis), Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei (eis). Requiescat (-ant) in pace Amen.

Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

From the Enchiridion of Indulgences.

Some families add the second half of the "Eternal Rest" prayer to the "Prayer Before Meals":

Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts, Which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord, Amen. And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

We ought to pray for the faithful departed throughout the year, not just during November. After these souls in Purgatory are in Heaven, they will intercede on our behalf.

All Souls' Day 2020 | The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed

All Souls' Day

"The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace." — Wisdom 3:1-3

"On this day [November 2nd] is observed the commemoration of the faithful departed, in which our common and pious Mother the Church, immediately after having endeavored to celebrate by worthy praise all her children who already rejoice in heaven, strives to aid by her powerful intercession with Christ, her Lord and Spouse, all those who still groan in purgatory, so that they may join as soon as possible the inhabitants of the heavenly city." (Roman Martyrology)

Monsignor Bernard Bourgeois explains this commemoration: "Eternity with God is the life to which each disciple of Christ aspires. The Second Eucharistic Prayer at Mass asks the Lord to 'welcome them [the faithful departed] into the light of [his] face.' We believe that God welcomes his children to his home, into his very presence. To behold the face of God is the 'stuff' of eternal life. If one can see another’s face, the two people are close together. The same can be said for this image of eternal life. If the departed person has been welcomed into God’s presence, then that person will be close enough to God to behold the light of his face. And that’s eternal life — to behold the face of God for all of eternity."

The Holy Souls in Purgatory

"Purgatory is much more like heaven than hell, for the souls detained there are not in Satan's clutches, but ready for God's loving embrace. They have their pains, but they also have their joys. They have their pains, because they cannot see God, though they are so close to Him. Their knowledge that their sentence is terminating builds up the desire for heaven to such a pitch that the pain of privation is most intense. But there is a mixed feeling. They also have their joy. St. Catherine of Genoa wrote: 'Apart from the happiness of the saints in heaven, I think there is no joy comparable to that of the souls in purgatory.' Their state is such that it is more correct to call them holy souls than poor souls..." [Source]

Collect Prayer for All Souls' Day

Listen kindly to our prayers, O Lord, and, as our faith in your Son, raised from the dead, is deepened, so may our due hope of resurrection for your departed servants also find new strength. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Homily for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 8, 2020, Year A

Parable of the ten virgins

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

Wisdom is one of those often-used words the meaning of which, for many in our world, can be elusive. From time to time we ought to pause for a few moments and reflect on its meaning. It’s a word that frequently appears in both the Jewish and Christian Testaments, particularly in the Jewish Testament, a word having a great deal of religious significance. Thus, we hear Jesus speaking of it in today’s Gospel account.

Prudence is a word closely associated with wisdom. From Our Blessed Lord’s statements we might associate foresight even more closely with wisdom. Certainly wisdom moves beyond mere data processing or the accumulation of facts. Facts and data are necessary in order to arrive at wisdom but wisdom is something greater than simply knowing facts or processing data. The purpose and meaning of our lives should always guide our choices. It is wise for us to remember that we came from God and are returning back to God.

The Eighteenth Century American essayist Henry David Thoreau once said that “…it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” That’s a good description in the light of what we just heard Jesus saying in today Gospel. The five foolish virgins were desperate. They had not exercised foresight and as a consequence they wanted the five-wise virgin to do a desperate thing. Being wise, however, they did not. They did the prudent thing.

I want to point out that it is quite possible for one to lose one’s soul, something that’s not much talked about and ignored these days. To put it another way, it’s quite possible to neglect our relationship with God and let that relationship die out. Just as the light on an oil lamp can sputter and die out for lack of attention, so too can the fire, the warmth, and the vibrancy of our relationship with God can sputter and die out for lack of attention. Wisdom, prudence, and foresight are needed to keep our relationship with God strong and vital.  We came from God and we are returning to God.

In another parable that you will remember we find the steward who was about to be fired going to his master’s debtors and “cooking the books” so as to lower the amounts of their indebtedness. Our Blessed Lord didn’t commend his cheating in tampering with his master’s accounts and lowering their indebtedness, but He did commend the unjust steward for his prudence, his foresight, and his wisdom. That steward was looking ahead to make sure that his future would be secure. He took action; he pursued a goal; he didn’t simply sit back and let one of life’s tragedies sweep over him or sweep him away, nor should we. We came from God and we are returning to God.

Wisdom is one of those virtues that require us to act. It’s not just a nice reward we receive for being good. It isn’t a virtue that naturally comes to us. It’s an acquired virtue. We should make a careful note of that because we are surrounded these days by institutions and structures that we expect will take care of us. All sorts of fail-safe devices protect us from our mistakes and provide for us in our need. In today’s movies and TV programs something in the end always comes to the rescue even of those who have been foolish.

But life, particularly our religious lives, and more importantly our relationships with others, requires us to take responsibility and to take action. This is never more true than in our relationships with the Persons of the Holy Trinity. There are no fail-safe devices in our personal relationships with others and in our relationship with God.

As we engage in our pursuits, seeking many things, things that are good, we would do well to ponder on the pursuit of wisdom. Seeking information and knowledge is one things, seeking wisdom is quite another. We may perhaps be intellectually well endowed and possess an immense memory, a storehouse of facts and data, and we may be able to skillfully process, inter-relate, and analyze those things that we know all the while being devoid of wisdom. Our spiritual lamps will then sputter, die out, and lose their light. We would then have eyes to see and see not, ears to hear and hear not. We would be sighted in intellect but blind in spirit. It’s a very real and present danger that we should avoid. The parable of the wise and foolish virgins should have an impact on us.

Where, then, is wisdom to be sought? Along what paths is she to be found? Let me offer a partial, though by no means complete, suggestion. First of all, we should resolve to really listen to what is in the hearts and souls of others, not simply listen to their words. It’s foolish to act on impulse, on feelings or urges. It’s wise to think about what will follow. It’s foolish to judge others’ motives. It’s wise to ask them and to explain their motives. It’s foolish to act as you always have in the past. It’s wise to think about changing for the better. It’s foolish to act on fear. It’s wise to set fear aside and act on convictions. It’s foolish to be reactive. It’s wise to be proactive. When dealing with a problem it’s foolish not to consider the thoughts of others. It’s wise to realize that others have insights and knowledge based on their experiences and that we can learn from them.

By talking with those whom you perceive to be wise and by reading great literature we can gain access to the deep thoughts of human beings. The world’s great novels are a good source. Engaging in bible study is another, particularly the accounts of Christ and His teachings. Do you know that the Old Testament has an entire book devoted to Wisdom? We would all do well to read it and ponder from time the lessons it offers us.

So it is that we should hear again the words in today’s reading from the Book of Wisdom:

"Resplendent and unfading is wisdom and she is readily perceived by those who love her and found by those who seek her. 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 by his gate. For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence, and whoever for her sake 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."

Wisdom is offered to us by God, but God does not push her off on us. She is found and recognized only by those who are alert and actively seek her out as we make our way back to God, the God who has gifted us with His wisdom, the wisdom to seek and find Him in this life and in the next.