Why Begin the Journey if You Don't Have the Heart to Finish?
The Twenty-First Friday of Ordinary Time.
Lessons from the primary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• I Thessalonians 4: 1-8.
• Psalm 97: 1-2, 5-6, 10-12.
• Matthew 25: 1-13.
The Third Class Feast of Saint Rose of Lima; and, the Commemoration of Saints Felix & Adauctus, Martyrs.*
Lessons from the common "Dilexísti…" of a Virgin not a Martyr, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• II Corinthians 10: 17-18; 11: 1-2.
• Psalm 44: 5, 15-16.
• Matthew 25: 1-13.
If a Mass for the commemoration is taken, lessons from the proper:
• Wisdom 10: 17-20.
• [Gradual] Wisdom 3: 1-3.
• Luke 10: 16-20.
11:21 AM 8/30/2019 — The parable our Lord tells us in today’s Gospel lesson is based on an ancient Jewish wedding custom very different from our own. Mostly, when people get married in this country, the bride and groom do not see each other just before the wedding, and she walks down the isle with her father and is met at the foot of the altar by her groom. But in our Lord’s time, the groom always went to the bride’s house to collect her, and they went together to his house where the wedding was to take place. The bridesmaids would wait for him outside with lighted lamps. Interestingly enough, a similar custom is still observed in the Ruthenian Catholic Church in which I served for many years. In the Ruthenian Church, the wedding of a Ruthenian Catholic, by law, must take place in the parish church of the groom—it may not take place in the church of the bride without a dispensation from the bishop—and the groom, with his entourage, goes to her house and picks her up with her bridesmaids and brings her to the church, where they are met at the doors of the Church by the priest, who leads them together down the isle to the Royal Doors of the sanctuary, while the cantor chants the Invitatory Psalm.
When I was pastor of a Ruthenian Catholic parish—which I was for nearly twenty years—and one of my parishioners married a Roman Catholic girl, it was always a traumatic revelation for most of these girls when I had to tell them that they weren’t going to be marching down the isle on Daddy’s arm to some triumphal organ music, or something played on the harp by one of her high school friends, since musical instruments are not allowed in a Byzantine Rite church, Catholic or Orthodox.
So, there you have a cultural context to understand our Lord’s parable a bit better. The bridesmaids wait outside the bride’s house with lighted lamps for the groom to arrive and collect his bride. In the specific case presented by our Lord in the parable, the groom is late. Call me irreverent, but I like to think maybe he was having a bit too much fun at his bachelor party, and lost track of time. In any case, he’s late, and the bridesmaids waiting for him have fallen asleep. Some of them had the foresight to bring extra oil for their lamps, but some of them didn’t, and they got shut out.
What our Lord is teaching us today is that it’s not enough just to have started out on the path that leads to Christ; we have to remain on it, ever alert, because the natural tendency of every person is to lower the level of self-giving that the Christian vocation requires. Little by little, almost without realizing it, the soul gives in to the tendency to make Christ’s call compatible with a comfortable existence. We have to be eternally on our guard against the pressure of an environment whose guiding principle is the insatiable search for comfort and the easy way. If not, we end up like the foolish bridesmaids of our Lord’s parable: at first they are full of good will and the passion of religion, but they quickly get tired of waiting, and fall asleep.
Just so. Our one purpose on earth is to work out our salvation. Everything else is just window dressing. I’ve been repeating that line so often that you may be ready to carve it on my headstone. But it is never a bad thing to continually remind ourselves that we have no more important a duty as Christians than to see to it that our souls are ready right now to meet our final judgment, just in case.
* St. Rose was commemorated in the ordinary form on Friday of last week, in the post for which a brief biography of her may be found.
St. Felix was a priest of Rome who suffered under the Emperors Diocletian & Maximian. Finally condemned to death, he was joined by an unknown Christian at the last momment, whose true name is unknown; the Church has given him the name Adauctus. They were beheaded together in the year 303.