November 12, 2023

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

As the 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time unfolds, we draw nearer to the liturgical year’s close—a time rich with thoughts of endings and new beginnings and filled with anticipation for the Advent season. During these reflective days, a light-hearted anecdote from the Empire State Building captures our spiritual theme beautifully. When a tourist inquired, “If the elevator cable breaks, do we go up or down?” the guide humorously yet pointedly responded, “That depends on how you are living.” This jest finds a deeper resonance as we meditate on the anticipation of Christ’s second coming.

The Gospel for this Sunday presents the parable of the ten virgins (Mt 25:1-13), a stark reminder to maintain vigilance and readiness for the Lord. The misstep of the five foolish virgins, who found themselves barred from the wedding feast, accentuates the perils of spiritual procrastination. Conversely, the preparedness of the wise virgins, with their lamps well-stocked, serves as an exemplar for us—to be ever ready for Christ—the Bridegroom.

This parable transcends time, speaking to each of us today. The prepared virgins illustrate the necessity of being ever vigilant due to the unpredictable timing of the groom’s return. The foolish ones, meanwhile, embody the risks of a lax spiritual regime, thinking they could depend on last-minute resources—a gamble that led to their downfall.

The Gospel’s message to us is unequivocal: Spiritual preparedness is not merely beneficial; it’s crucial. It requires our own effort, cultivated through constant faith and action. It’s an initiative that we cannot postpone, outsource, or borrow.

Preparedness means building a daily, not occasional, relationship with God. It’s about constantly fueling our lives with virtuous deeds, prayers, and acts of charity. Like the concerned tourist in the elevator, we too should wish for a life elevated by virtue, with a steadfast faith.

Applying this readiness in practical terms, let our daily actions be as nourishing and essential as the Sunday Eucharist. Let us engage in daily prayer, delve into Scripture, partake in the Sacraments for sustained grace, and practice virtue as a genuine expression of our alignment with Jesus’s teachings. Every kind act adds more oil to our lamps, ensuring a glow that withstands all trials.

In essence, let’s consider our spiritual direction with the same seriousness as one would contemplate their fate in a stalled elevator. With the year waning, let us firmly commit to living in a state of grace and watchfulness for the Lord’s return.

Let us move ahead with lamps ablaze, reflecting our faith through vibrant, active lives, and hearts filled with unwavering hope.

With prayers for your diligent faithfulness,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham