Wisdom 6.12-16: The book of Wisdom was written to heln Jews living in the Diaspora, scattered communities throughout the eastern Mediterranean, to come to terms with the challenges presented by a pagan environment which was heavily influenced by Greek culture and ideas. If Jewish thought was largely centred on God, then Greek was more concerned with Man, a humanism.
The author of Wisdom does not so much seek to pull the two together as to show how our natural human potential finds its fulfilment in God. We are essentially God-directed.
For a Jew God makes himself known through his creation; there is a basic conviction that order is to be found in things and events, and that this order is not
something completely mysterious, beyond our abilities to comprehend, but that it seeks to make itself known. It is the nature of creation to reveal. God's Wisdom. therefore. 'goes about seeking those worthy of her, and she graciously appears to them on their paths, and greets them in every thought.'
Our reading shows that true Wisdom, knowledge of eternal values, depends upon two factors: our natural capacity to know God, and God's help — or grace. to use a term obfiously implied by the reading — towards those who seek him. Wisdom is 'easily discerned by those who love her' and 'is found by those who seek her.' While we are busy searching for God. God is himself searching for us.
But the metaphor should not be pushed too far. For God already knows us through and through. and, according to the author of Wisdom, our 'search' consists simply in our worthiness. our 'being vigilant on her account' — a phrase which will be explained by Jesus in today's Gospel, the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins.
1 'Thessalonians 4.13-18: We have already noted that Paul's opening to this letter is very positive, thanking God and praising the Thessalonians for the constancy of their faith. But even those whom he greets which such joy may have something lacking.
Paul had probably learned front Timothy that his friends were sad. even confused. about the pOsition of those of the cm munity who had died. and he feels that he has to add a special exhortation to clarify the situation.
'We would not have you ignorant,' he says. 'concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.' The Christian hope is based on the death and resurrection of Christ; what God has done for Christ he will also do for those who follow him.
The sadness Paul attacks is not the grief of the bereaved but the despair of those who have given up waiting upon their God. Paul himself has no more idea than anyone else when the Lord will come: that does not matter. His only concern is to reassure the Thessalonians that 'we who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep'.
The description of the trumpet sounding and the dead rising up to meet the Lord 'in the clouds' contains the sort of fanciful imagery that would have been familiar to a Jew. For Paul's Greek audience it serves simply to underline the one crucial statement of faith — we shall always be with the Lord'.
Matthew 25.1-13: The Gospel reading comes from a whole series of parables and sayings about the need for vigilance 'for you know neither the day nor the hour'. Jesus will shortly speak about the Last Judgement. Meanwhile he tries to point out to his disciples that they cannot afford to wait around, twiddling their thumbs. They will be judged according to their deeds and their dispositions now.
The details of the wedding ceremony in New Testament times arc obscure, but the central event was certainly a long procession — sometimes all the way round the village — as the bride left her own home and was taken to that of the bridegroom. The ceremony was held at night but nobody knew how long the journey would take. Hence the need for the lamps and a further supply of oil.
It is clear from our text, however, that the bridegroom is on his own. No bride is ever mentioned. 'Perhaps a different form or part of the ceremony is being illustrated; more likely the evangelist seeks to highlight only the position of the bridegroom. He represents the searching God of the Old Testament who is coming to greet his People — who are here represented not by the bride but by the bride's attendants, some of whom are ready, some not.