I want to speak to you today about your future wife, your bride, waiting out there for you.
In the parable we just heard, the Lord spoke of the bridegroom, and of the ten virgins waiting for him.
Whenever we meditate on the parables, we automatically apply one of the roles in the parable to ourselves.
e.g. I consider myself as the prodigal son (Lk 15:11-31), and what his behaviour teaches me;
Or, I consider myself as the lost sheep who is found (Lk 15:3);
When you became a priest,
it becomes important to apply the role of the Lord Jesus in the parable to yourself:
For example: yes, I remain a lost sheep needing to be found,
But, as a priest, I need to take my inspiration from the behaviour of the shepherd who goes looking for lost sheep.
Let’s take that interpretation to today’s parable:
The bridegroom - is the Lord.
The wedding that is coming - is between Himself and the Church, His bride.
And there are wise and foolish virgins – members of His Church.
They are WAITING for His coming.
Where are YOU in the parable?
You will one day be a priest.
You, therefore, will be the bridegroom.
You, by ordination, sealed on your soul with a sacramental character,
Will be conformed to the image of Christ.
-you will be the bridegroom.
Much priestly writing in recent years has focused on this image:
John Paul the Great articulated it in Pastores dabo vobis
and, much like Benedict’s rearticulation of patristic interpretations
The notion of the priest as spouse of the Church,
as bridegroom of the Church,
is ancient and patristic.
Why am I celibate?
Because I have a wife:
I am, to apply St Paul’s words spiritually:
I am “a man of one wife” (1 Tim 2:3), the Church
This isn’t just practical necessity to free my time for service
Rather, it’s a spiritually symbolic
its ontologically grounded
-by my union with Christ THE Bridegroom
This will be you:
You will have a wife
She is now your bride, waiting for you.
In our seminary context,
I want to present to you the image of your future parish WAITING for you,
Just as the Church universal waits for the coming of the Lord.
Your congregation will have a mixture of wise and foolish,
Just like the wise and foolish virgins
-both are waiting for you
When you get to your parish,
You will meet those who already wise and good
You will hear, in all likelihood, tales of problems they have endured:
Lack of good catechesis
Lack of leadership
Lack of formation
And, probably, you will wonder why they endured it all
You’ll wonder why they didn’t walk away
Because THEY WERE WAITING FOR YOU
In your diocese there are tens of thousands of Catholics who are waiting for you
And, in all likelihood,
You will have a moment, when THEY TELL YOU exactly this:
They were waiting for you.
Waiting for you to teach to sanctify, to govern
to guide, to lead
to shepherd, to care
They’re already wise and good, but they still NEED you
they’re waiting for you.
In your future parish,
You will also meet the foolish
They are waiting for you too,
But they lack ‘oil in their lamps’
They often don’t know they lack oil
And applying that image differently,
it’s YOUR job to bring them oil for their lamps
it’s your job to GET them ready
Even though, in many ways, they don’t know it,
the fools need you
the fools are waiting for you
In our parable,
The focus was on the virgins needing to be ready for the Bridegroom.
Let me be bold enough to reverse that:
In our seminary context:
You are training to become the Bridegroom
You are training to get READY
Your bride is out there
some wise, some foolish
-she is often not ready
-she needs your help to get herself ready.
-she needs YOU to be ready, yourself
Seminary is long
Seminary can be hard
But your bride needs you to be ready
Some of you, perhaps,
Are on the edge of giving up
The COVID context is hard
The seminary regulations are hard
And maybe you’re thinking of dropping out
You’re thinking of spending a year or two doing something else
PCJ life now is hard
This might be harder than anything in your future priesthood
Your bride is waiting for you
Your bride is needing you
A final twist in our symbolism here:
She is only your bride in a secondary sense
we only love her in a secondary sense
Primarily, she is CHRIST’s bride
Primarily, we love HIM,
and we love her for sake of our union with Him
by reason of our configuration to Him
When Peter was asked to shepherd the Church,
He wasn’t asked if he loved the Church
Rather, he was asked if he loved HIM
“Simon, son of John, Do you love me?”(Jn 21:17)
What, most essentially, gets you ready to love your future bride?
Your love of Him.
Let’s sum that up:
Your future wife, your bride is out there, waiting for you.
The Church waits for Christ;
The people of your parish wait for you
There will be both wise and foolish in your parish
Some ready, some not
Some knowing they are waiting for you, some not
You, however, are to get ready for them
Get ready to be the bridegroom
by being conformed to the ONE Bridegroom: Christ, the Lord.