Reflection for Sunday – November 12, 2023
Readings: Wisdom 6: 12-16; 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18; Matthew 25: 1-13
Preacher: Sr. Karen Dietz
When I read the scriptures for this Sunday, I am first of all, reminded of a famous quote of St. Agustine: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Second, I think of one of my favorite hymns for worship, “There is a Longing” by Anne Quigley. Both this quote and the song speak of a yearning for God, for the Divine, that I believe is present in every human heart. We don’t all recognize it or name it as such, but nevertheless, it is there.
This yearning for God comes to us on two levels. First, we, as beings created by God, long for a deeper relationship with God. Even those who profess not to believe in God, are on some sort of search for meaning in their lives, trying to make sense of different realities, feelings, etc. Our search can take us to any myriad of practices or readings or places. We are all on a quest to know God more deeply and to be known by God. We go on retreats, we read spiritual books, old and new, and we explore different prayer practices. We may visit different houses of worship and speak with a variety of religious leaders.
The first reading from the Book of Wisdom speaks of Wisdom as a woman and that this woman graciously appears to those who seek her. Most striking is that she appears in whatever ways the seeker most needs. God (Wisdom) is available to us and accessible. God is not far removed from us as it may sometimes seem. God and God’s grace are within and around us all the time if we only have eyes to see.
The psalm response from Psalm 63 reminds us of the desire for God, a desire as strong as a thirst that cannot be quenched. The psalmist has found God, and the verses are replete in inexpressible joy in God’s presence. The image of being sated by sumptuous food and refreshing drink is a wonderful picture of what it feels like to have found God and to be in relationship with God.
Finally, the Gospel from Matthew of the wise and foolish virgins speaks of being ready to welcome God whenever the Divine appears. Much can be said about the virgins who came prepared with extra oil and those who did not, the lack of willingness or awareness of the possibility of sharing, etc. For us today, as I reflect on the desire for God and my hope to deepen my relationship with God, I want to be more like the virgins with extra oil, thus ready to welcome God whenever the Divine arrives.
Anne Quigley’s lyrics help me to understanding the second level of a yearning for God. She writes:
There is a longing in our hearts, o Lord for you to reveal yourself to us
There is a longing in our hearts for love we only find in you, our God
For justice, for freedom, for mercy, hear our prayer
In sorrow, in grief, be near, hear our prayer, o God
Lord, save us, take pity, light in our darkness
We call you (we call you) we wait (we wait)
Be near, hear our prayer, o God
It is in this song prayer that I understand the yearning for God to be present in our very broken world. This takes the understanding of longing for God beyond the personal to a more universal level. So many times our faith can be a “Jesus and me” kind of thing. And yet, as people of faith, we live in the world, not apart from it. We are commissioned as disciples to be ambassadors of God’s forgiveness, mercy, compassion, and reconciliation. God has broken into our world in the incarnation and in each and every one of us. And so we pray for justice, freedom, mercy, light, and solace. We beg God to be revealed in our homes, city streets and neighborhoods, churches, government offices, and countries all around the world. We ask God to be present when disaster strikes, and the balance of nature is thrown out of kilter. We thirst for God’s action in what seems to be such dire times.
And yet, are we prepared with enough oil to keep our lamps burning; lamps of political action, exercising the power to vote, reaching out to the homeless, serving the hungry, preaching peace, welcoming the stranger, doing our part for the environment? These are some of the ways it seems to me that we open ourselves to the satiating presence of God in our own hearts and in the hearts of others.
I pray each of our hearts remain restless for a very long time – because there is much to do be done to enkindle the yearning for God in our world. Only then will we know deep and abiding joy. Won’t you join me?