Thirty-Second Sunday, Year A, 8 November, 2020: Wisdom 6:12-16; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13
For the past seven Sundays, the Gospel has come from the final week of Jesus’ life as described by Saint Matthew. This is a crucial, almost desperate, teaching, sometimes addressed to Jesus’ critics or, like today, to his disciples. I wonder whether Jesus was talking to his women disciples here since the realm of marriage rites and bridesmaids were part of the feminine sphere, one that Matthew is not famous for addressing.
There are other anomalies in this episode but I am not intending to address them. It’s the preparedness, the vigilance for the Kingdom of Heaven that strikes me. In some other discourses the coming Kingdom seems like a catastrophe that overtakes us, prepared or not. In this parable entering or not is in our hands and I think of three examples in the final chapters of Matthew’s Gospel.
One is provided by Judas who prepared the plan to betray Jesus; and, yet, when he succeeds in his Master’s arrest, it’s not what he expects. He’s filled with remorse and despair.
Then there’s Peter, who feels prepared at the Last Supper to die with Jesus. But when the time comes, he can’t even admit that he knows him. He’s filled with remorse and repentance.
Finally there are Mary Magdalene and the other Mary on Easter Sunday morning; they’re prepared to anoint the corpse of Jesus but are surprised by an empty tomb, then by the Risen Lord himself! Is that a foretaste, a sacrament of the Kingdom?
And Peter’s repentance, does that open the gates of the Kingdom?
As for the mysterious Judas…of all the Evangelists, only Matthew portrays him as a three-dimensional, conflicted human being. What becomes of him? Not long ago, Fr. Damian offered that moving, insightful image of the Mother of Judas and the Mother of Jesus embracing one another.
I offer no answers. What that precious preparedness may be, I need to explore further for myself. Our entrance into the Kingdom…is that door only opened once? Or do we learn from our feeble preparations how to become prepared?