32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Of course we know what Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel.  He’s the bridegroom.  The wedding feast is heaven.  And the ten virgins are you and me.  When He comes again, some of us will be ready and some of us won’t.  The point is that we don’t want to be one of the unready ones.  The difference between Jesus’ story and today is that if half of us were ready, that would be a big improvement.

According to many surveys, only thirty percent of Catholics attend mass on a regular basis.  That means that seven out of ten people who call themselves Catholics are going to be standing around with empty lamps when the Bridegroom shows up.  But, we’re doing better than other faiths.  According to Gallup, only 20% of all Americans attend church on a regular basis, in spite of the fact that 92% of Americans say they believe in God.  That’s a lot of so-called Christians sleeping in on Sunday morning.

If you and I are called to bring others to Christ, and we are, then it seems like we have an almost impossible task.  But, it’s like the story of the little boy who was walking along the beach, picking up starfish, and throwing them back into the water.  A man stopped and asked him what he was doing.  “I’m saving the starfish”, he said.  At that the man said, “You know, you’ll never be able to save them all.”  The boy picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea and said, “I just saved that one, didn’t I?”

The first reading reminds us today that wisdom comes to those who seek her and those who love her.  Wisdom is a gift from God.  The little boy in the story is wise beyond his years.

You might wonder why the wise virgins in Jesus’ story didn’t share their oil with the others.  Aren’t we supposed to share what we have with others who are less fortunate?  We are.  But the wise women had brought just enough oil for themselves.  We’re asked to give up a lot of things for the salvation of others but we’re not asked to sacrifice our own salvation to save someone else.  A better question might be, “Why didn’t the wise virgins encourage the others to go buy oil before it was too late?”  I imagine that Jesus asked them that question at some point, just as He’s going to ask you and me what we did to help others.

I have to admit I don’t have as much wisdom as I’d like to have.  I wish I was able to understand more about my faith and the world I live in.  But, frankly, there are just so many things that I just don’t get.  How can it be that nine out of ten Americans believe in God but eight out of ten of them don’t go to church?  Exactly what is it that they believe about God?  Do they think He was kidding when He said to remember the Sabbath and to keep it holy?  When God the Father sent His only Son to establish a Church and to save us from our sins didn’t He expect us to say “thank you” by coming to worship Him once a week?  And for those of us who DO come to church, doesn’t He expect us to bring some of the 90% with us?

You and I are blessed to have a beautiful, historic house of worship here at Saint John’s.  Visitors here are almost overwhelmed with this holy place.  Just last week, we had a bus tour from the Czech Genealogy Society.  These were people from all over the country who’ve heard about this church their whole lives.  We may not realize, I know I didn’t, how important this community has been in the history of the Czech people in the United States.  Every Czech Catholic church in America has a connection to Saint John Neopomuk.  It was like the visitors had “come home” even though they’d never been here before.

I’m telling you this because you and I have been called to preserve this heritage for future generations.  Whether you’re of Czech descent or not, you have a great blessing in this place and with the blessing comes a responsibility to share it with others.

You can imagine that after the wise virgins were admitted to the party, the ones left outside had to be asking, “Why didn’t they tell us?  We didn’t understand.  It would have been so easy for us to go buy oil if only we knew.”

So, what should we do?  One obvious answer is to evangelize, especially among friends and relatives who have fallen away from the Church.  Our chapel holds about 600 people.  That’s 1,200 people for two masses.  On a good weekend we’re at about 10% of our capacity.  Don’t be afraid to bring a friend with you.  There’s plenty of room.  In it’s hay day, Saint John Neopomuk had a thousand member families.

Saint Francis famously told his monks to preach the Gospel always and if necessary to use words.  In other words, our actions speak volumes.  Let everyone see how much you love your faith.  Don’t be afraid to speak up about controversial topics.  Everybody you know should know that you’re a proud member of the Roman Catholic Church and that you believe what She teaches.  I was raised in the Baptist church but a lot of my friends were Catholics.  We didn’t sit around and discuss religion, but everyone knew who was a Catholic.  We know more by what they did than by what they said.  I spent many a Friday night waiting for the clock to strike twelve so my Catholic friends could eat pepperoni pizza.

Finally, pray for our brothers and sisters who have gotten out of the habit of going to mass.  Jesus told us that if we had faith the size of a mustard seed we could move mountains.  Remember that Jesus started with just twelve Apostles and today His Church has over a billion members.  At the time His plan must have seemed crazy, even to those closest to Him.  But it worked.

We have our work cut out for us.  When should we start?  Tomorrow?  Next week?  No, we’d better start today; right now.  How much time do we have?  Only Jesus knows and He’s not telling.  Like He said, “Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

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