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Reflections on the Scripture readings for Nov. 12, Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

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We can never predict just when the King will call, when the bridegroom will knock on the door, when the life we know will come to an end.

Deacon Greg

Wis 6:12-16
Ps 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
1 Thes 4:13-18
1 Thes 4:13-14 (alternate)
Mt 25:1-13

It's that time of year again.

In much of the country, the leaves are falling, nights are lengthening, frost is appearing on the ground -- and the readings at Sunday Mass are turning once more to talk of danger and death. In these weeks, virgins who run out of oil are locked out; unworthy servants are thrown into the darkness to wail and gnash their teeth; omens of suffering are everywhere.

The liturgical year is drawing to a close and the recurring theme, again and again, is simple and blunt: pay attention! Take stock. Be prepared. In this month when we pray for and remember our beloved dead, we are told repeatedly that nothing lasts. Judgment is coming. Are we ready?

Let's be honest. That's not exactly the cheerful sort of message most of us want to hear right now, in these weeks before the holidays. Shouldn't we be getting ready for Black Friday sales and making our shopping list for Christmas? Shouldn't we be checking the fares for holiday travel?

Maybe there are other things we need to be tending to.

The messages contained in the readings may not be what we want to hear, but -- like the song goes -- they're just what we need. They are reminders to be alert, be aware, be ready.

Don't take anything for granted, especially God's final verdict on our lives.

Time grows short. And yes: judgment is coming.

This is a moment to consider what has been and what will be. As we prepare for the start of a new year in the life of the church, we have an opportunity to reflect on our past mistakes, and the limits of this life, and the promise and hope of the life to come.

We have a chance to think more deeply about what really matters as we await the feast that honors the King of Kings. But just how well do we wait? How well are we prepared? Are we like the virgins in Matthew's Gospel, keeping vigil, but lacking enough oil for their lamps? Or are we better prepared, like those who wait for Wisdom in a spirit of joyful expectation and readiness? "Whoever watches for her (wisdom) at dawn shall not be disappointed."

So, what can we do to avoid disappointment?

Begin by taking stock, because time is growing short. We have just three weeks before the start of Advent, the season of preparation for Christmas and Christ's coming into the world, which comes just after the Sunday that may have the most extravagant title on the church's calendar, The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. The message is unmistakable. The end is near.

You want to start working on resolutions for the new year? This is a good time to prepare.

It's also a good time to realize that while the weeks ahead may contain feasts and celebrations and extravagant dinners, with events to plan and cards to send, some things are unknowable. Mariah Carey may be warming up on the radio, but there is still time before the Christmas onslaught to seek out a bit of quiet -- to pause and reflect.

We can never predict just when the King will call, when the bridegroom will knock on the door, when the life we know will come to an end.

The verse before the Gospel captures the lesson of these readings perfectly: "Stay awake and be ready! For you do not know on what day your Lord will come."

This is especially meaningful and sobering during this month that began with prayers to all the saints and remembrances for all the souls. The remembrances continue.

And Sundays like this one challenge us not only to remember, but to never forget.

- Deacon Greg Kandra is an award-winning author and journalist, and creator of the blog, "The Deacon's Bench."

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