We pass this way only once - Choose Well

Homily for the Thirty-Second Sunday of Year A

by Fr. Tommy Lane

(The following is an abbreviated version of the original.)

Some countries have the custom of the bride being a few minutes late for the wedding. But there was a different custom for weddings at the time of Jesus. It was the groom who had the privilege of delaying the bride at the time of Jesus. The wedding could take place anytime within two weeks. So the poor bride had to be in a state of constant alert during those two weeks. However the groom did make it easier for her by sending messengers to her house to warn that he would be coming later that day to pick her up for the wedding. Therefore the bride and groom could not send out invitation cards because only the groom knew when the wedding would be and he gave very little notice. He could choose any day and any hour within those two weeks. When the groom went to the bride’s house to pick her up for the wedding he would have to negotiate with her relatives the gifts he would give for the privilege of being able to marry her. Sometimes these negotiations could drag on for a time before he took the bride back to his house for the wedding. So it seems that in the parable Jesus told in the Gospel today (Matt 25:1-13) there was a lot of negotiating about what gifts the groom should give for the privilege of being able to marry the bride; the negotiating went on so long that the bridesmaids back at the groom’s house grew so tired of waiting that they fell asleep (Matt 25:5). When the bride and groom arrived in the groom’s house the parents pronounced a blessing over the happy couple and the singing and dancing lasted for a week. No wonder they ran out of wine during the wedding at Cana!

The bridesmaids in the parable were given an opportunity to be ready for the wedding in the groom’s house later that evening. The groom had already sent word to the bride that the wedding would be later that day. They knew the wedding would take place; the only delay would be the negotiations with the bride’s relatives. But five of them did not bring enough oil. They had an opportunity during the day to get a supply of oil but they didn’t bother. Then when the couple arrived for the wedding it was too late and those who had oil had only enough for themselves and were unable to share it. It reminds us that we have to make choices going through life and we live afterwards with the consequences of those choices. There is no getting away from making choices, we have to make decisions. The option we have is to choose well or choose badly. Whatever way we choose, we will live with the consequences. Some of the bridesmaids in the parable squandered the opportunity they had during the day to get some oil. Like them we have choices and decisions. We want to choose well because we pass this way only once.

The parable reminds us to choose well because at the end of life we will meet our Savior and we do not know when he will call us; that’s why Jesus said in the Gospel, “So stay awake because you do not know either the day or the hour.” (Matt 25:13) Each decision or choice we make going through life is a decision or choice for Jesus or against Jesus. There will be consequences to all of our decisions for Jesus or against Jesus. When Jesus calls us from this life whenever that will be, we will face the consequences of all our decisions for or against Jesus. “So stay awake because you do not know either the day or the hour.” (Matt 25:13)

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

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