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November 6, 1987     The Message
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November 6, 1987 Commentary 6/ Mass Readings By FATHER DONALD DILGER The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana i II I One way to deal with problem of delay of Jesus' final return 5 Gospel Commentary for Sunday, Nov. 8, 1987 Matthew 25:1-13 -- The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids To the casual reader this is one of the strangest parables in the gospels and has sometimes been the object of lively humor. It occurs only in the Gospel of Matthew except for a few sayings within the parable that occur in some form in Mark and Luke. What is the context into which Matthew places this parable? The preceeding chapter was a collection of sayings of Jesus and the early Church about the end of the world and the return of Jesus. The technical term for the return of Jesus is the "Parousia." Early Christians had a severe case of Parousia fever much as some Christians have it to- day. Paul himself expected the end at any time and described just what he and other survivors would experience at that time (I Thess. 4:15-17). The earliest Gospel we have, the Gospel of Mark writ- ten about 70 A.D., also expected an almost im- mediate end. When Matthew wrote approximately fifteen years later the end had not come and he needed to reflect on this in his revision of Mark's Gospel. Mark 13:10 had already said that the Gospel must first be preached to all nations. Mat- thew goes beyond this and has Jesus sending out the disciples to teach and baptize all nations and promises to be with them until that is accomplish- ed. That would take time so the end is put off for a while. Nevertheless, Christians must continue to be watchful because they do not know the day or hour. That is the background to this parable. We know little about marriage customs in the time of Jesus. From the scant information we have in this parable we conclude that the ten young women had gathered at either the home of the bride or that of the bridegroom. The celebration was held at night. We are used to pushing or pull- ing a switch to get light. Not so in ancient times. People brought lamps and torches along for addi- tional light for the festivities. The bridegroom was delayed, probably a bachelor party. Since the young women waited a long time they became drowsy and fell asleep. When awakened with a warning that he was approaching five of them were running out of oil for their lamps. They asked the other five to share but these knew that this would only mean a total blackout since all would burn out early. The first five go to buy more oil. While they are out the bridegroom arrives. The door is locked to keep out party crashers. The five shoppers then arrive to find the door locked and they can no longer be admitted. The moral of the story follows: "Watch...for you know neither the day nor the hour." What to make of all this? The use of the wed- ding festival as symbolic of the time of the return of the Messiah is widespread in the New Testa- ment. Examples Matthew 9:15; 22:1-14; Revelation 19:7-9. The wedding feast is the end of time when the righteous will be snatched from the sorrows of this world into everlasting joy. The bridegroom is Jesus, as is clear from his being addressed as "Lord, Lord/' In Matt. 7:21 Jesus says: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the kingdom of heaven." His return, which will set off the celebration, is expected but delayed. No one knows the time, The wise bridesmaids are the ones who are always ready. The foolish never get ready or try too late. Since they all went to sleep we can hardly say they were vigilant but the point is that some had foresight to prepare. This is the second of four parables in Matthew concerned with the delay of the Parousia. They are as follows; Matthew 24:42-44, the householder who did not know when the thief was coming; Matthew 24:45-51, the two slaves, one who prepares for his master's coming, the other who does not; Matthew 25:1-13, today's parable; and Matthew 25:14-30, the parable of the talents -- next Sunday's gospel reading. This multiple treat- ment of the subjects by Matthew and also by other New Testament authors indicates that the delay of the Paronsia was a major problem for Christians of the time. Luke seems to put it off even more than Matthew since only he has Jesus going away through the Ascension followed by a Pentecost scene and an account of the history of the Church in the Acts of Apostles. The author of the second letter attributed to Peter, written about 120 A.D., solves the problem as follows: ".:.Mockers...will say: 'Where is the promise of his coming?...all continues just as it was from the beginning . . .' The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wanting anyone to .perish but for all to repent." {II Peter 3:3-9} For him the delay has the purpose of giving eveybody a chance. Except for fundamentalist Christians of whom we hear selling everything and gathering for the Great Return, most of us do not seem unduly con- cerned about the Paronsia. Should we be? Probably not. The point of the parable is to be ready at any time and not with undue anxiety. A life according to the Gospel is the best preparation. Besides, it is not the final end that we need to worry about at all but rather our own end for that will come with the greatest certainty. For that we must "be on the alert, for we know neither the day nor the hour." Other readings for Nov. 8: Wisdom 6:12-16; I Thessaionians 4:13-18. 8 Vatican Letter Dynamics of synod intensified because of time frame By AGOSTINO BONe NC News Service VATICAN CITY (NC) -- The Synod of Bishops lacks legislative power, but abounds in legislative-style politics. Its work involves trade-offs, tactical alliances and the skillful manuevering of a con- cept through committees and general assemblies. The dynamics is that of a con- gress or parliament in a democratic country, but inten- sified because synod activity is I I JASPER SER VICE AND SHOPPING GUIDE Buehlers I.G.A. "THE THRIFTY HOUSEWIFE'S SOURCE OF SAVINGS" QUALITY FOODS and MEATS Ahto Hunflngbum md Oakland Clty KREMPP LUMBER CO. 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RD.) allowing for a more flee- wheeling environment. Official information is pro- vided through summaries of speeches and periodic briefings and press conferences. Unof- ficial information, such as descriptions of the politicking, comes from those participants willing to leak it. The main factor that makes all this politicking possible is that the synod delegates are not formulating church doctrine. Their hard bargaining is over application of doctrine and practical solutions of specific pastoral problems. The common result of this mix is that a concept looking like a consensus view at the beginning of the synod may never make it to the voting stage. Conversely, a concept hardly discussed in the general assembly may be swept onto the synod ballot by a groundswell of support in committees. The aim of all this is to place recommendations on the desk of the pope, who is free to ac- cept or reject them. Under synod rules, recom- mendations are sent to the pope in the form of concrete pro- posals, needing approval by a two-thirds majority. For- mulating and approving these proposals is a three-stage pro- cess: -- Delegate speeches on the assembly floor. -- Breaking up into commit- :tees, small working groups organized by language, to draft proposals to be voted on con- cerning the issues raised in the assembly speeches. -- Voting on the proposals. During the first stage, bishops go on record about issues of concern. Most choose only one or two issues, given the eight-minute time limit. Delegates chosen by bishops' conferences -- the great majori- ty -- must present the views of their conference. THIS STAGE IS Sometimes deceptive. If one-third of the speeches favor a concept and a handful oppose it, does this mean there is widespread agreement? Not necessarily. Many bishops who oppose the concept, but do not have this as a major concern, will wait for it to come up in the small working groups before shooting it down. They would rather use the precious minutes on the assembly floor pro- moting their favorite recom- mendations. The committee stage is where most of the hard bargaining is done. Proposals are discarded through trade-offs. Delegates pledge support for someone else's proposals in return for support for their list. Ter- minology is hammered out which is strong enough for the supporters of a proposal but vague enough to attract fence- straddlers needed to forge a ma- jority.