Sunday, November 08, 2020

Travelling in Truth

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Readings: Wisdom 6:12-16; Psalm 62(63):2-8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13

Video: Disney Movies on YouTube 

My dear friends, do you know what a seasoned traveller looks like? It’s usually someone who takes care to research a travel destination, so as to prepare well for the trip. Bringing warm clothes, when visiting a cold climate. Or sunscreen, if remaining in the tropics. But preparing well for a journey involves more than just bringing the right stuff. When planning a mountain-climbing expedition, for example, even more important than having proper equipment, is to ensure that one is in good physical condition. The body must be trained for the trek. Otherwise it won’t be able to keep up.

This wisdom of a seasoned traveller is something like what the first reading encourages us to cultivate. The wisdom to know where one is headed, in order to prepare well for the trip. And the second reading tells us that our ultimate destination is to be with God in Christ. So that it doesn’t matter whether we are alive or dead when Jesus comes again in glory. For, even if we were to die before then, Christ will raise us up again. If we remain faithful, we shall stay with the Lord for ever. But how to remain faithful?

If it is true that our life’s journey stretches beyond time into eternity, if our final goal is indeed hidden – beyond the struggles of this passing life – in the enduring embrace of God in Christ, then how should we prepare for the trip? This is the crucial question that the gospel helps us to ponder.

The parable teaches us that being well-prepared for the Lord’s coming is like having enough oil for a lamp. And scholars say this points to something the gospel writer has already highlighted much earlier. In chapter 5 verse 20 – in the Sermon on the Mount – Jesus tells his disciples, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

To have oil for our lamps is to be trained in the righteousness of Christ, and to resist the hypocrisy of his enemies. It is to cultivate right relationship – with God, with oneself, and with others. Today, righteousness is seen especially in compassion shown to those who suffer, including Mother Earth. But even more basic than that, righteousness is shown in the care one takes to speak the truth, even when it may be more convenient to tell a lie. All of which may explain why the wise bridesmaids did not share their oil with the foolish ones. They couldn’t. For righteousness is more like physical conditioning than sunscreen. It can’t be borrowed or lent.

Some of us may still remember the story of Pinocchio, the little wooden puppet on an exciting quest to become a fully human boy. An especially significant moment on the puppet’s journey is when it learns the importance of speaking the truth. For its nose grows longer whenever it tells a lie! In an age of so-called alternative facts and fake news, isn’t this lesson in integrity something that we urgently need to learn anew?

Sisters and brothers, as we continue our pilgrimage into eternity, what must we do to help one another become ever more seasoned travellers today?

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