HAVING SUFFICIENT OILS IN OUR LIVES
The Bridegroom is Jesus Christ. He will surely come, but nobody knows when. We profess this in the Creed: “He will come again to judge the living and the dead.” We call this the “Parousia”. When the Lord returns will we have oil in our lamps or will our lamps run empty? If we have our lives and lamps filled with oil, we will be able to join the Bridegroom in his Eternal Wedding Feast.
The First Reading is from the Book of Wisdom. This passage extols the virtue of wisdom. It is both a gift of the Holy Spirit and a Christian virtue that helps us do things right according to the will of God. “Wisdom is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her.” We are invited to seek wisdom and to love wisdom. Wisdom is offered to us by God, but God does not push her off on us. She is found and recognized only by those who are alert and actively seek her out as we make our way back to God, the God who has gifted us with His wisdom, the wisdom to seek and find Him in this life and in the next.
The Responsorial Psalm is the ultimate expression of perfect wisdom: “For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord, my God!” A soul imbued with wisdom will always seek God and His righteousness, knowing fully well that He is the source of perfect happiness and fullness of life.
The Second Reading is St. Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians for them not to lose hope regarding those who have died. He refers to the departed brethren as those “who have fallen asleep.” This is in clear reference to the fact that death is not the end of life, but only the passage to eternal life. Resurrection in Jesus awaits those who have “fallen asleep”.
The Gospel narrative peaks with an exclamation and an invitation, “At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’” (Matthew 25:6). The lesson for each of us is this: Christ is the Eternal Bridegroom, the Divine Lover, who continually calls each of us into an intimate relationship. The Gospel narrative capsulizes the message of all the readings this Sunday. It talks about our innate desire to be fully united with God at the end of our life, like the virgins waiting for the bridegroom. What sort of relationship do we have with Jesus? Do we desire to be with Him always? How prepared are we for our final homecoming?
The parable highlights the vital importance of time in our life. Many people tend to waste their time on many unnecessary and even harmful things. Our response when invited to edifying programs and activities that will give glory to God we would normal say, “I have no time. I am too busy.” But when invited to a social affair or even a gambling or drinking session, we somehow get to find time. This clearly indicates one’s personal values. We tend to have more time for worldly activities, but have less interest in matters of the soul. In doing so we lose the golden opportunities God presents to us to generate the precious “oil” of salvation. We become like the foolish virgins in the parable, and sadly we eventually get left out in the cold when the Bridegroom comes unannounced.
A lot of our experiences do not always require us knowing people personally or directly. We do not need to know personally the president to be served by government. We do not need to know the owner of a fuel station before we are able to get some gas for our vehicle. In other words, we can receive benefits and participate in events without knowing the leaders and heads of companies. However, that cannot be the same with faith. In our relationship with God, knowing Him and be known by Him is a condition sine qua non for enjoying the benefits of the Kingdom of God.
The message of the parable is clear. We need to make sure that we are like those wise virgins in the parable, that we always have enough “oil” for our lamps. We need to make sure that we are always renewing our life of faith — through prayer, through our reading of the Gospels, through the graces we receive by the power of his sacraments. These things are the “oil” that Jesus talks about in the Gospel today. The “oil” of our prayer; the “oil” of all our personal acts of piety and devotion; all our efforts to work with God’s graces and to grow in virtue and holiness. These are not transferable; we cannot borrow holiness of life, honesty, integrity, chastity, diligence, humility, meekness, temperance, brotherly love etc. We must work at acquiring these virtues that keep us in good stead with God. As the parable points out, salvation is not something we can hand over to another like an inheritance. That is why the wise virgins could not do anything about the oil. It is inalienable and non-transferrable. It has to be produced by the person himself.
It must be noted that the foolish virgins are not bad people. They are just lazy. They have no desire for wisdom. They don’t want to work too hard in their spiritual lives. And that is a lesson for us, also. Sometimes we can get lazy in spiritual life. One mistake we make is to think we don’t have enough time to pray, or that we will get to it later when we are done with all our other work and goals. That’s a big mistake. Prayer should be first in our lives. All it takes is a few minutes each day to quiet our hearts, to center our minds on Jesus Christ.
We get the supply of oil for our lamps, not by accumulating and hoarding our blessings, but by giving and sharing with others. Selfish and greedy persons lose the oil; generous and loving persons produce more oil and heavenly treasures. As St. Francis said, “It is in giving that we receive, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
Another point to be reflected on is the response of the bridegroom. The response reveals a very important aspect of faith, “Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.” This was not the first time knowing was given great importance. Do you know the Lord Jesus? The question really asks if you have a “relationship” with Him? We may know a lot “about Jesus” but we may not know Him experientially. It is a lot different hearing about a person than meeting the person. In the same way, following God’s commandments is not enough. We also must have constant communication and encounters with the Lord. Prayer is one good form of encounter and communication.
God is expecting beautiful things from each one of us. Hence we need the oil — of prayer, of good works, of charity, — so that our lamps keep burning brightly. We can shine as the light of Christ into every corner of our culture and our society. So today, let’s make a resolution to “get busy” — making sure that our lamps are going strong. We can work this week on improving our relationship with God by spending a little more “quality time” in prayer.
Let us ask Mary, our Blessed Mother and the Seat of Wisdom, to help us to seek the gift of Wisdom to understand God’s plan for us. And let us ask for her intercession that today we renew our faith and start this new life — a life of faith that fills our whole life with meaning, with security and with joy.