On the Hourglass
[Wis.6:12-16; 1Thess.4:13-17; Mt.25:1-13]
Something is missing. Researchers have recently found that the number of ‘likes’ on social media for lies and fake information has trebled in the last 2-3 years.
It seems that people are increasingly happy to ‘like’ sheer nonsense, either because it’s popular, or it fits with their personal opinions (or both). Influential leaders have also found that they only have to ‘put it out there’ and their followers will swallow it whole. [i]
How can this be, when our society is reportedly more educated and better informed today than at any other time in history?
In 1948, General Omar Bradley (who led the US 12th Army in WWII) gave a speech that still resonates today. He said: ‘… humanity is in danger of being trapped in this world by its moral adolescence. Our knowledge of science has clearly outstripped our capacity to control it. We have many men of science; too few men of God. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. Man is stumbling blindly through a spiritual darkness while toying with the precarious secrets of life and death. The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.’ [ii]
Yes, something is missing in our world today. Could it be wisdom?
Wisdom is intelligence combined with deep understanding. It’s something that grows with maturity, experience and age, and it helps us make sound choices and good decisions. Scripture describes it as being better than gold (Prov.16:16).
The Bible often speaks of wisdom, but it also distinguishes between its worldly and Godly forms (Jas.3:13-18; 1Cor.3:19).
Godly wisdom is characterised by humility, mercy and love. It is peace-loving, gentle, impartial and sincere. It also allows us to see things from God’s perspective, because God is the source and cause of all things. It therefore reflects truth.
Worldly wisdom, however, tends to be self-centred and opinionated. It exalts the self above others, and can lead to jealousy, pride and selfishness. It sees things from the human perspective (Mt.16:23).
Our world is full of ideologies and sayings that sound like great wisdom. They might benefit some, but ultimately, they lead us away from God. As the Book of Proverbs tells us, ‘there’s a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death’ (Prov.14:12).
In Matthew’s Gospel today, Jesus gives us his Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids. In ancient Hebrew tradition, the bride and her bridesmaids wait at the bride’s home for the groom to arrive. He typically arrives in the evening, when it’s dark, and then they go singing and dancing to his home for the wedding celebration.
In this story, the groom is delayed and arrives very late. Five wise bridesmaids are well-prepared, with their lamps ready to go. But the other five have been wasting their time and don’t have any oil. So, they get left behind.
The parable ends with the warning: ‘Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour’.
This parable is essentially about Christ’s Second Coming, which St Paul in our second reading reminds us is sure to happen one day.
The question for us today is whether we have the wisdom to prepare for this significant event, or whether we’ll be left behind because we’ve been too distracted by other things.
Let me close with a story.
There was once a little girl who lived near a beach. She loved her grandpa very much and she enjoyed seeing him. He collected hourglasses and she loved turning them upside down and watching the sand sift through the glass bulbs.
‘Why do you keep them?’ she asked.
‘They remind me that time is the most precious thing in the world,’ he replied.
As Christmas approached, she asked her mother why she hadn’t seen her Grandpa for weeks. She said that he was in hospital and might die.
The little girl wasn’t sure what death meant, so her mother explained that life is like one of Grandpa’s hourglasses, and that he had very little time left.
One morning her mother announced that they would visit Grandpa that day. She asked the girl to make a special Christmas present for him. She did.
When they got to the hospital, the little girl gave her Grandpa a beautiful gift. He unwrapped it slowly, looked inside and smiled. He understood immediately.
She had filled the box with sand. [iii]
So, remember this: time is running out.
True wisdom can take a lifetime to acquire.
[i] Dr Laurie Woods, Australian Catholic University, Weekly Lectionary Commentary, 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A.
[ii] General Omar Bradley (1893-1981). These words are from his 1948 Armistice Day address in Boston. https://www.whatsoproudlywehail.org/curriculum/the-american-calendar/armistice-day-address
[iii] Jay Cormier, Table Talk, Year A. New City Press, New York. 2010:212-213.