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  • Fr. John Jennings

Our Sacred Stories ~ Seeking & Discovering the Reign of God

Have you ever found yourself in unfamiliar territory? Perhaps you were hiking in the woods. Or possibly you were driving in a new city or a new province or even a different country. You got lost. I have often had that experience. When it happens, I prefer to think – I’m not lost, I just don’t know where I am. This my opportunity to discover something or some place new and unplanned.

Such experiences are common to all of us. They seem to be part of being human. We do not know everything and we often face new challenges with many questions. We are born to discover, ask questions, to learn new things and ways. Natural to us all is the drive to go on quests, searches and discoveries. That’s why we like mystery novels, movies and stories. It is why we are attracted to things like puzzles and games which tax our energies and thinking. Even when we are very young children, one of our first instincts seem to be to ask questions. Why? How? What? In fact, every answer we receive seems to generate more questions. Life is one long quest to figure it all out.

Our Gospel this weekend (Matt 25:1-13) is about encounters and discovery. The ten bridesmaids were waiting for the coming of the groom. He was late arriving and when he did come, some were prepared, some were not. Why does Matthew tell this parable of Jesus?

Like all the parables they are told first for the little communities of Christians to whom the Gospel writers belong. These early Christians of the first generation after resurrection, expected Jesus to return in glory soon, even in their lifetime. As time went by, the return was delayed, like the groom’s coming. Some were discouraged by this delay. Matthew’s parable is to urge Christians to wait patiently and be prepared for the encounter when they would meet their risen Lord: “Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

One of the striking parts of this story relates to being prepared for the encounter. The “foolish” bridesmaids are not ready when the groom arrives. They do not have enough oil for their lamps, so they want to borrow from the wise bridesmaids. They are told by the wise: “go… and buy some for yourselves.” When the foolish leave to buy, they miss the coming of the groom.

Often in our waiting and searching for how we are to live as disciples of Jesus and as Catholics, we have a tendency to focus on what others have or do – borrow from the wise or buy from the dealers. In our quest, we fail to recognize that perhaps what we seek is already in us and among us. It is a matter of discovering what we already hold and allow our lives to act upon it.

Our baptism has made us part of a community of Christians. We are called to journey with one another. Our church is a global one, encompassing many cultures and languages. In 2021, our community was asked to enter into a process of synod. This past October 2023, after two years of preparation in local communities around the world, the first session of the synod took place in Rome.

The word “synod” has a Greek root which means “to travel together”. As local representatives met in Rome, they took us and what was considered locally in our church with them. We in this way were traveling together with them. Over the next year we will be offered the opportunity to consider further who we are as church – to pray, to listen, to share our hopes and questions as a global church. In October 2024, Session #2 of this synod will consider more deeply who we are to be as church in the 21st Century. Again, we will be “traveling together”, sharing ourselves in the Spirit.

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