Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Best is Yet to Come!

The message in today's readings from the Book of Wisdom (6:12-16) and the Gospel of Matthew (25:1-13) is about the need for us to cultivate wisdom and listen to its lessons.

a homily by Fr. Brian Timoney
Christ the King Parish, Pleasant Hill, California, USA
32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle A)

Four years ago, a good friend of mine was dying of cancer. A few weeks before her death I called, asking if it would be a good time to visit. She told me that she and her best friend were going to a small Deli for lunch and that I could join them there. We sat at a table and she asked to speak to the manager. "What could you provide for a reception after a funeral," was her question. "When is the funeral?" asked the manager. "The exact date has not yet been decided" was the answer. You should have seen the face of the manager as she realized to whom she was speaking. I don't think I have ever met anyone more prepared to meet Jesus than that friend of mine, both on the material and spiritual level. Her jar of oil was full. I will not easily forget that lesson. 
Wisdom is speaking to me and I am listening and learning. That is what the Scriptures are asking us to do today.
I may not be the only one who thinks that she/he is truly wise. I may believe that my advanced age and wispy white hair, my 61 years as a priest are signs that I have learned something over the years, that I can now make good judgments free from all bias. Alas, wisdom does not come with age or experience, or scholarship, or position in church or society. It comes, from being humble. St. Teresa of Avila said that humility is truth. Only God knows the absolute truth of everything and it is in God the Holy Spirit that truth abides, the wisdom that will help us to live well and look to the future, wisdom that will help us to make good decisions in situations where it is not easy to distinguish between wise and foolish, right and wrong. 
I am sure you recall the fruits of the Holy Spirit--wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and the fear of the Lord. In the Book of Wisdom today (6:12-16), we are urged to love and seek wisdom. That means being on the lookout for the presence of the Holy Spirit. It may manifest itself in the innocent utterance of a child, the good counsel of an experienced religious leader, the writings of scholars, but above all in the prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture. We have to open up our hearts and minds to the words of Jesus himself. In him the Spirit dwells in all fullness, we should be prepared to be guided by what we hear Jesus say, what we see him do. It may not be what we would like to see or hear, but it is the truth and we should pray for the humility necessary to accept that truth. Wisdom herself is speaking to us.
In praying  t h  e   Gospel passage f r o m   M a t t h e w   25: 1-13  today, it is quite clear that Wisdom is telling us to be prepared for the coming of Christ, that the summons to meet the bridegroom can come quite suddenly. I am keenly aware of this truth, given my advanced age. I am not the oldest member of this community, there are some in their nineties, but old enough to know that I should be stocking up on the oil that will keep my lamp burning until the bridegroom, Jesus, comes. No, I am not being morbid or paranoid, just realistic. Scripture calls it the oil of gladness and it is described by Jesus: "Whatever you do to the least of my sisters and brothers, you do to me." That is the oil we have to stock up on. That is the oil that burns brightest and, in doing so, most clearly shows the way to the wedding feast. Surely for us all, the wise thing to do is to have a full jar. This is ultimate wisdom, the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit, to have a stock of good deeds.
Last Monday, Frs. Paulson and Vince and I were at the funeral of one of our brother priest, Fr. Tony Herrera. Before the Mass began there was open casket and people were surprised and perhaps a little confused to see what Fr. Tony had in his hand as he lay in the casket. Not  Rosary beads, not a Bible, not a Cross. It was a fork! Yes, a dinner fork. Fr. Tony was a gourmet cook and, when he had friends to dinner and the main course finished, he would say: "Keep your fork, the best is yet to come." 
There he lay, in his casket, shouting out to all of us. "The best is yet to come, the wedding banquet is ready, be prepared." There, surely, was and is the greatest wisdom.
Let us all shout with him, "The best is yet to come!" 

"The best is yet to come!" 

Again, "The best is yet to come!”  
November 12, 2017
(c) 2017 Brian Timoney
All rights reserved

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