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No shortage of fuel

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

As we approach the end of the Liturgical year, the readings are more apocalyptic in tone. The end of the year is always a reminder that we live subject to the passage of time. It is also a reminder that we are finite beings. It invites us to contemplate eternity, which is the goal of our existence, the reason why we were created.

Since we live subject to the passage of time, we think of eternity as an infinite succession of days, but that is not necessarily the case. We could argue that eternity is an endless present, but even that image has some shortcomings because the present is always understood as the current moment.

Some time ago, our parish book club read a novel by Jose Saramago entitled “Death with interruptions.” In it the author presents an imaginary world where suddenly, the power of death is suspended so that everybody remains permanently in the state in which it was at the time of the suspension of death. It is not a Christian text by any standard. The author was an atheist and a harsh critic of the Catholic Church. However, his novel triggers some interesting questions about the passage of time, the meaning of life considering the reality of death and makes patently manifest that love is stronger than death.

It is an insight accessible in principle to human reason that is much more evident and easier to grasp for the disciples of Christ who also have the assistance of grace.

The love of God which is offered to us in Christ is passionately love, so much so that it leads God Himself to submit to the power of death to set us free from its yoke. The Resurrection of Christ is the event that brings meaning to our entire existence, even to our death. That is the Good News that we, Christians, proclaim! The radicality of the love of God knows no limits. It is the reason why we were created and the goal of our existence. We are invited to participate in His own life which is infinite love throughout our entire existence.

Obviously, that invitation, like any other invitation, demands a response from those who are invited. Not to respond to an invitation is to reject it. Our response is given not just by word but must result in concrete actions in ordinary life.

Both the foolish and the prudent virgins in the Gospel passage go out to meet the groom. The difference lies in the fact that the prudent ones are mindful of the possibility that there be delays, difficulties and setbacks. Therefore, they bring additional fuel lest they experience exactly what happened to the foolish who ended up being unable to meet the groom. At the precise moment when the groom came, they had gone away to get more fuel to keep their lamps burning in the middle of the night.

The Thessalonians who had embraced the faith of the Church, contemplated how many of the baptized were dying before the promised second coming of Christ. That delay was a cause of consternation and doubt. That is why St. Paul encourages them to nourish their hope and not to worry about a delay in the second coming of Christ because we will all have a final and definitive encounter with Him. They are encouraged to live the faith they have embraced. They are invited to live in communion with the Risen One whom they have met through the preaching of the Church, with whom they entered into communion through Baptism.

We are also waiting for the Lord who comes to meet us in many different ways. We find Him in the sacraments. We hear his voice in Sacred Scripture, in the teachings of the Church. We see his face in our brothers and sisters, especially those who suffer. We will all have a final and definitive encounter with Him in which we hope to hear his loving voice inviting us to eternal communion with Him. To be able to encounter Him in the sacraments, to hear His voice, to see His face we need a heart that is properly disposed. To do that we need to make every effort to live in grace. The grace of God is the fuel that allows our hearts to be aflame with divine love until the day we see Him face to face. It is offered to us lavishly, yet we must accept it, receive it, cooperate with it. If we live day in day out in the love of God, striving to be holy, we will be enjoying here and now the love that is offered to us for all eternity. A few weeks ago, we showed a documentary about Sister Clare Crockett, an Irish nun who died during an earthquake in Ecuador. Somebody told me that he was struck by the intensity with which she lived her life. It was precisely an encounter with the love of Christ crucified that set her heart on fire and kept it burning throughout her life.

Those who live Communion with Christ in the ordinary affairs of life and make every effort to open the heart to grace are truly prudent. They have realized in their life what the first reading proclaims. Those who keep vigil to live in the love of Christ, will soon be free from care, because He Himself graciously appears to them in the ways, and meets them with all solicitude.

Fr. Roberto M. Cid