One of the themes of today’s readings is the importance of wisdom. Just out of curiosity, I looked up the word “wisdom” on the internet. Among many things that showed up in Google, was this definition: wisdom is “knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action”. I think that’s a pretty good definition, although perhaps we could add that wisdom deals with things of consequence. In other words, someone can know how to play video games and make just the right decisions regarding how to get the highest score, and yet we would not call that wisdom. However, we would use the term “wise” to refer to someone who makes political or financial decisions that lead to long-term well-being and prosperity.
The kind of wisdom that comes from God deals with the most important realities of all: life, death, and eternity. This is not purely human wisdom; it is a gift from God. In the Gospel parable, Jesus teaches us that divine wisdom is necessary if we want to enter into heaven. Only the five wise virgins are welcomed into the wedding banquet, while the other five, who were initially invited, are turned away because they were not prepared.
This contrasts sharply with the common assumption in today’s world that pretty much everyone who is not a hardened criminal, automatically goes to heaven. Texts like today’s second reading are very comforting and encouraging, because they assure us that the dead will rise again, and we will be reunited with the Lord and with each other. However, we also have to remember that Jesus speaks elsewhere (such as Matthew, chapter 25) of judgment based on our actions, and resulting in eternal reward or eternal punishment. Far from being guaranteed, salvation is something that, in addition to God’s grace, requires both faith and works that put that faith into action.
In other words, we need to be wise, knowing by faith what is true or right and exercising just judgment, putting that knowledge into action, motivated by love and aided by God’s grace. We also have to keep our knowledge of God fresh. Just like any other kind of knowledge, if we don’t use it, we lose it. We need to nourish our faith by reading Scripture and other sources that keep us informed about living our faith in the modern world. We need to keep the lamps of our minds full of the oil of God’s truth and love, not neglecting our faith like the foolish bridesmaids. It’s the attitude that is expressed in today’s responsorial psalm: we need to thirst for God, think about Him, pray to Him and praise Him, and feed our souls on His truth, goodness and strength.
Even when we die in friendship with God, and are destined for heaven, we may still have to “do time” in Purgatory to make up for our past sins and failings. That is why it’s important to pray for the deceased, as we do on All Souls Day and during the General Intercessions at Mass each Sunday. That is also why the ideal way to bid farewell to our deceased is with a funeral Mass; the Eucharist is the highest form of prayer that we have on earth. At the same time, there is a tendency among some Catholics to request a graveside prayer service without a Mass. Of course, we need to respect the desires of the deceased; some specifically request a simple service in the cemetery. However, we need to remember that it is a duty of charity to pray for those who have gone before us, asking God to forgive their sins and purify their souls to speed their transition into His heavenly kingdom. When a funeral Mass is not practical for some reason, it’s a good idea to have an ordinary Mass offered for our beloved deceased.
May God grant all of us the gift of divine Wisdom, to know what is right and how to put our faith into action, living our lives according to His law, thirsting for God with all of our being. When the Lord comes again, may we all be reunited with our loved ones and with Jesus so we can enter together into the wedding feast of heaven.