Proper 27/A [Pent. 24] (11/12/2023): Ps. 70; Amos 5:18-24; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13.
“Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! ... It is darkness, and not light … But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing wadi” (vv. 18 a, c, 21, 24).
Today the Church commences her end of days celebrations. The last three Sundays of the Church Year urge us to self-evaluation; are we advancing in the knowledge of God and Jesus as we await the parousia (1 Thess. 4:16, 17)?
You answer is important: Jesus equates “knowledge of him” with “eternal life” (Jn. 17:3), which is more than longevity, rather it is the abundance of Life (10:10b). More than midway through our Year Jesus gave notice of a “final exam”, “But who do you say that I am?” (Mt. 16:15, Pent. 13, proper 16A).
We might ape the stormed tossed disciples, “you are the Son of God” (14:33), the Canaanite woman, “Son of David” (15:22), or St. Peter, “the Christ” (16:16); all true, but until the Resurrection, all were clueless of their meaning.
It wasn’t until Jesus raised Lazarus, informing Mary through sister Martha, “I Am”, and demonstrating himself the incarnate Creator of Life from the Beginning. Mary believed; but his confession would bring about Jewish intent to kill both Lazarus, now born to new life, and Him whom they claimed to worship (Jn. 11:53).
In Jesus’ crucified and resurrection reign we have our being, and in these end-times can expect to answer the same question of the Apostles, “But who do you say that I am?”. You may not be able to unpack your response with St. Paul’s theological precision; but you attend Christ in your midst (Lk. 17:21) in word and Sacrament and advance in knowledge, desire, and honor of your Bridegroom, who addresses “maidens” prepared for his coming.
Amos and Jesus inform about “the [coming] day of the LORD”. For five unprepared (i.e., “moronic” in Greek) maidens that Day is dark unto judgment; for five prepared and anticipating maidens who render true worship of God with angels, archangels, and the company of heaven, the Day is expansive Light.
Both Amos and Jesus seek to awaken Israel from false security, slumbering complacency, and presumption toward God. In these end-times God is winding-down days; and with his Church will judge the world in the wisdom of the man Jesus.
Jesus entered Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosana to the son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mt. 21:9). He then cleansed the temple, declaring its priesthood, sacrifices, and furnishings irrelevant; no longer God pleasing (vv. 12-20); Jesus then pronounced “woes” on Israel’s religious authorities (23:13-36); and lamented his rejection by Jerusalem’s populous (vv. 37-38).
Jesus vacated the temple precincts, leaving it God forsaken. From then-on he no longer taught those uncomprehending of their “Hosanas”; now he taught only new Israel, disciples coming to him in the knowledge of God and his Christ. St. Matthew began Jesus’ teaching of his nascent church, seated, his Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:1—7:29). Today for final instructions Jesus is seated on Mt. Olivet (Mt. 24:3—25:46).
His churchly reign compares to “Ten Maidens” awaiting arrival of their betrothed, five “wise” and five “moronic”. Note well, the ten maidens describe the believing Church. The “moronic five” are not Satan’s planting, “weeds” among “wheat” (Mt. 13:24ff.). They are “Baptized” who call Jesus, “Lord” (25:11); yet when he shuts them out of his wedding feast, He says, “I do not know you” (5:12).
On this third-last Sunday, both Jesus and Amos announce judgment, not on atheists, not on unbelievers, nor rank heretics; but on “believers”. For these moronic maidens “the day of the LORD! ... [will be] darkness, and not light.” Does this get your attention; it should!
Clearly, I am not preaching a “once baptized, always saved” gospel. Jesus, as Amos, is warning the Baptized; some may fall from grace, from infidelity to God’s word and Sacrament salvation (Mt. 13:5-7; Amos 5:19).
God says, “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.” — Did you hear it; it is right worship that pleases God. What then is God pleasing worship? Certainly, not Rome’s prescribed “ex opere operato” forms, doing apart from faith. To know what pleases God, look to “the day of the Lord”. Amos prophesied judgment Day for northern Israel executed by an Assyrian invasion, resulting in Israel’s “ten lost tribes”.
Christians discern God’s abandon of the “lost tribes”, as prophecy of Christ crucified; His abandon on the cross for the sin of the world, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46b; Ps. 22:1).
The maidens on Mt. Olivet, would now discern his teaching, with filled and trimmed lamps faithfully awaiting his promised coming who are “light of the world … [giving] light to all in the house. (Mt. 5:14a, 15b).
The Bridegroom will deny the “moronic maidens” from his feast. To understand we return to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven …” (7:21a).
Today’s teachings were delivered in advance of Jesus’ Supper, that we might comprehend his reign from the cross, a foretaste of his “Last Day” marriage feast. From Jesus’ crucifixion and handing-over the HS for his Church, he has taken into himself all time, holy places, religious feasts, and festivals.
“The day of the Lord” now arrives eucharistically, shaped either in judgment (“unworthy” reception, 1 Cor. 11:27-29) or grace for those worshiping God in his new dwelling, awaiting reception of Christ’s crucified and risen flesh.
Jesus comes to his militant Church in word and Sacrament; the question is, how will you receive him; attentive and advancing maidens in the knowledge of God, or as moronic slothful ambivalent?
Saving faith is relational; it desires that which Jesus gives and seeks: the righteousness of faith, church Oil in water, light, and sight.
In this time of the Church, word and Sacrament extends Jesus’ beatific promises (Mt. 5:3-12) for his maidens appropriation distinguished from distracted and unprepared believers, who care little of their Lord’s coming.
Certainly, wise maidens occasionally doze-off; yet even in the throes of daily sin you repent anticipating the glory and honor of your Lord’s presence. Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day, “pastor purveyors of the gospel” distribute an ongoing supply of spiritual Oil for forgiveness and true worship.
Our relationship with God is as waiting maidens. St. John characterizes the Church as 144,000, militant “male virgins” (Rev. 14:4). Our earthly desire seeks our Groom’s loving and eternal presence. He, who has given his life imparts forgiveness to the poor, the least, and unattractive leads us to his wedding chamber and celebratory meal.
True worship is impossible except as we receive Christ’s atoning sacrifice, his crucified and risen flesh, from whom, “justice roll[s] down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing wadi” (cf. Jn. 7:37-39). Amen.