Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
32nd Sunday: Using Time Wisely
I want to begin today by asking you to imagine that you are the main beneficiary of a distant relative’s will. It seems this relative was quite eccentric as well as quite wealthy. A great deal of money is left for you to spend, but there are certain rules. Everyday for a year, your bank account would be credited with $86,400. If you wanted to spend any of this money, you had to produce bills showing why money was being withdrawn from your account. You could not save the money in another account. At the end of the banking day, whatever you did not spend would be removed from your account. The next day you would start with a fresh $86,400.
I am sure that you and I would find some really creative things to do with the money.
Now, let’s return to reality. Every day we are given 86,400 seconds to make the best use of. Every night, God writes off as lost whatever portion of this time we have not used well or have wasted. In the bank of time, there are no balances and no overdrafts. Each day a new account is opened for us. Each night, what remains is written off, lost, gone forever.
Everyday’s 86,400 seconds has to be invested wisely in commodities that will hold their value from day to day, quarter to quarter, year to year and beyond. Lasting values need to be found, values like justice, compassion, forgiveness, and love.
There were five wise virgins and five foolish ones. The five foolish virgins squandered their time. The five wise virgins made the best use of every moment. The wise virgins entered into the banquet of the Master’s love. The foolish virgins were too busy wasting time to be ready for their Master’s return.
How much time do you and I have left? We really don’t know. Recently, we have had young members of our parish come down with sudden illnesses and die just a few months after the diagnosis. Others have been killed in accidents. In our American denial of death, we all like to think that sudden death happens to other people. There is no reason why it shouldn’t happen to any of us. But it does.
The proper Christian attitude is not to deny death, but to prepare for it. This is the wisdom behind the five bridesmaids who were prepared to enter the wedding reception. They didn’t know when the bridegroom was coming, but they were ready.
So how do we prepare? Well, we have witnessed the crazies coming out in force with warnings of the end of the world only a few months away. Survivalists are preparing secret places where they hope to live for months or years after what they figure will be a devastating war. They are gathering supplies. Chances are good that in Pinellas and Pasco counties there will be a run on Ensure. (Sorry, I couldn’t pass that up.) These methods are all wrong. You don’t prepare for the end by doing a lot of stuff. You prepare by nurturing the proper disposition, the Christian attitude. Some of the most important words in scripture are two verses from Paul’s Letter to the Romans:
I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.
“Be transformed by renewal of mind.” Paul tells us to take an attitude of life that is completely different from the attitude of the world. Throughout the Gospels, particularly in Matthew where today’s gospel is taken, Jesus emphasizes the need for inner transformation. His complaints against the Pharisees, as we heard last week, was that they were hypocrites. They behaved one way, but were another way. He called them whiten sepulchers. On the outside, they looked nice and clean. On the inside they were rotten. The tax collectors and prostitutes who turned to Jesus transformed their lives. Their devotion to the Lord was a reflection of the Christian disposition they had taken on.
So, how do we form and nourish the Christian attitude of life? On the negative, we cannot give ourselves over to that which destroys the presence of the Lord. We live in a materialistic society. To the vast majority of society success is counted in the amount of stuff a person has. Pleasure, even fleeting pleasure, is the goal of life. The glorification of sex is just one of the many ways that this is expressed. We, you and I, have to fight against the forces outside of us and, particularly, within us that are drawing us into materialism and away from the Christian disposition of life.
On the positive, we can form and nourish the Christian disposition by continually communication with the Lord. We need to pray daily. We all need a brief time when we are with the Lord and freed of the distractions of life. If we have a family, then we have the additional responsibility to pray as a family every day. We should focus our prayer lives on our Sundays. On Sunday we celebrate the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord and receive the Eucharist. That should be the main focus of our week. The presence of Christ within us in this sacrament gives us the strength to be who we claim to be, Christians.
Today’s first reading speaks about wisdom. Wisdom is a way of life. The wise are always ready for the Lord because they are always united to him. The gospel lesson is simple for this Sunday. Be like the wise virgins. Be ready to celebrate the banquet of the Lord love.