By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, November 7, 2011

Gift of Wisdom

The Gospel passage from yesterday's Sunday Mass (Matthew 25:1-13) ended with these words of the Lord: "Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour." When I hear this teaching I often go back in my mind to visits I would make as a parish priest to the homes of my parishioners. I would usually do so in one of two ways: I would either call ahead and make an appointment, or I would just show up unannounced. You can imagine the difference between the two in the reception I received. In the first case the door would be opened immediately as the people welcomed me into their immaculately clean home. In the second, the curtain of the living room window would be pulled slightly back to allow one eye to peek out, followed by muffled cries of panic within. The Lord is teaching us that he will come again, but without calling ahead. We need to be prepared NOW to receive him.

We heard St. Paul (1Thessalonians 4:13-18) refer to this return of the Lord in terms both of our own death and of the end of time. We know also that the Lord, faithful to his promise never to abandon us, is with us even now, especially through the gifts of the sacraments and through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

In the passage from Saint Matthew the parable told by Jesus unveils the deepest purpose of the Lord's return. He comes to us as the bridegroom. In other words, he will come to us in love, seeking a communion, or covenant, of love with his people. That same parable uses the image of ten bridesmaids waiting with lamps lit so that they could go out to meet him when he arrived. The point here is the meeting. Christian life begins with and is nourished by the encounter with Jesus Christ (Deus Caritas Est, 1). Jesus desires to encounter us with his love and to draw us to himself, to a share in his own life.

A distinction is made in the parable between the five bridesmaids who are wise and the remainder who are foolish. The wise are those who brought extra oil and were prepared to wait. This is an important image for us, especially today as we find ourselves in the midst of so many crises. This extra oil symbolizes human limit. It represents a recognition that the Lord is in charge, that he acts in accordance with his wisdom and providence and at his own determination, and that, therefore, we can but wait upon his guidance and action. The Lord is not on call, responsive to our whims and determinations. Wisdom recognizes the truth of God, the truth of ourselves, and the truth of our dependence upon him. Folly is the illusory presumption that we can determine actions and outcomes on our own without needing to be prepared to wait for the Lord, to rely on his providence, and to trust in his wisdom. We are witnesses to the tragic results of such folly in the economic and political crises of our day.

The first reading from Mass yesterday taught that true wisdom is God's gift. It is clear that this gift has been bestowed in abundance upon our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. As I mentioned in my last post, I am in Rome right now for a series of meetings that are undertaken in the course of an annual visit to the Holy See by the President, Vice-President and General Secretary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. We shall have about twenty-seven meetings in all by the time we leave here. The highlight occurred today. I am speaking, of course, about the audience granted to us by the Holy Father.

He welcomed us very warmly to his office, where we had the great honour of presenting him with official copies of the new English-language Roman Missal approved for use in Canada and of the book produced by the CCCB Publications Service to commemorate the dedication of the new St. Joseph Seminary.

God has, indeed, greatly blessed us with the gift of Pope Benedict. We are in such good hands! He listens to his people with great attentiveness, manifests always a profound respect for each individual, and, as we know from his teaching, guides us with unparalleled insight into the human condition and the circumstances of the day, interpreting all in the light of the Gospel. Let us not fail to continue to support him with our love and prayers.