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For those among you who think that the Bible and the Church discriminate against women, please take a second look at the First Reading. The First Reading says that the incarnation of wisdom is a woman. Wisdom is a woman according to the First Reading. What is wisdom? Wisdom is to know the difference between the things that can be changed and the things that cannot be changed. Wisdom is to know the difference between what is temporary and what is permanent. Wisdom is to know the difference between what is essential and what is accidental. Wisdom is to know the difference between what is important and what is trivial. Wisdom is to know the difference between what is permanent and what is fleeting.

The First Reading says, that people who have discovered wisdom will stop thirsting and pining for things because everything in life will have meaning. Wisdom is so rare and yet it is so important. In the First Reading, we are told to value the things that are important and we are also told to take courage and let go of the unimportant things.

But we are a people who have been foolish. We “absolutize” what is relative and “relativize” what is absolute. That is foolishness. Wisdom is to know the difference between essentials and accidentals, to know the difference between the icing and the cake, to know the difference between substance and decoration. The decorations and the accidentals we can let go of, but not the essentials. We should not let go of the important things. We should hold on to matters of great value.

The Gospel speaks of wisdom as the first W and the second W is watchfulness. The ten virgins were supposed to be watchful, but only five were considered wise and sensible. What is to be watchful? To be watchful is more than timing. For some of us, we boast of being watchful because we are at the right place, at the right time, all the time. And for some people who are malas (unlucky), they are said to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, all the time. That is not watchfulness. That is only timing. Watchfulness is more than watching so that we will not get caught. Some of us reduce watchfulness and vigilance to that. Before we make an illegal left turn, we look to the left and to the right for the police. That is not watchfulness. That is being shrewd.

To be watchful is to do good all the time whether somebody is watching or not. To be watchful is to do good all the time, whether or not we will be punished or rewarded. We do good because our nature is to do good. That is the gift of the wise, sensible virgins. Through them we learn to be watchful, not only in terms of having proper timing or of being afraid of getting caught. We are faithful in doing good because it is the right thing all the time. Doing good becomes a habit in us. We become good so that whether or not the guard or the police comes, we do good. Whether or not these law enforcers are watching, we will do the right thing all the time because we know that to be our nature. And if we do not do good, if we are not watchful, we will be going against ourselves.

First W is wisdom; the second W is watchfulness. The third W for today represents “whole.” Whole meaning complete, total, not partial but whole. In the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians, he reminds us that life is total, life is whole. Don’t ever think that because of death, life becomes only half. Don’t ever think that life becomes cut in halves or quarters. No! According to Saint Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, in death life is changed not ended. The perfect example of this is the caterpillar. The caterpillar dies, so to speak. But from our point of view, it is not death but a transformation into a beautiful butterfly. When there is no death for the caterpillar there can be no butterfly. St. Paul says to us in the Second Reading, life is whole and that the will of God for us is fullness, wholeness, all the time. It is not the will of God for us to grieve like the pagans. It is not the will of God for us to picture death as we do at Halloween, with hairs raised, with bleeding wounds. Death is victory for us who believe in Christ because life is a totality. Life is a whole piece. And death does not take away the pieces of life. Death only transforms us to a beautiful butterfly.

The gift of wisdom, watchfulness, and wholeness are gifts for us to take home this Sunday. Not only this Sunday but for the rest of our lives. May God give us wisdom to know the essentials from the accidentals. May God give us watchfulness, not only proper timing, not only fear of getting caught, but doing the right thing, the good thing, all the time, whether we are being watched or not. And always remember, the will of God for us is to be complete, to be whole. Death does not take away that wholeness. Death does not make life incomplete. Death does not snuff out life. Death is only a transformation. A transformation from the caterpillar which signifies our “imprisonment” right now, into the beauty of a butterfly, which represents life everlasting.

Mt. 25:1-13
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