KEEP YOUR “FLASKS OF OIL” READY – 32nd Sunday, Year A
Worldly wise insure their future through insurance and retirement plans, financial investments and other means of security. Worldly foolish people make no such preparations, and are unprepared for their temporal future.
Spiritually wise people prepare for a good spiritual future in this life and in eternity through a life of prayer, seeking the wisdom of the Scriptures, and an active life of faith expressed in good works. They seek spiritual peace, and future happiness and fulfillment by seeking God.
The spiritually foolish make no preparations or insufficient ones for their spiritual futures by not building a relationship with the Lord, and failing to keep the commandments. They avoid their spiritual hungers and thirsts. The attractions of the world and the present absorbs all of their minds and lives.
Jesus told His parable of wise and foolish virgins to confirm the wise and to warn the foolish. All Christian communities have members who live in readiness for the Lord’s return and their own spiritual future in this life and in eternity, as well as those who don’t prepare spiritually for their own death, the Lord’s many comings in human life, and His return in glory at the end of the ages.
All ten of the bridesmaids knew that the bridegroom was coming. None of them knew exactly when he was coming, just as we all know certain events will take place in our future. Therefore, they were to remain prepared at all times. We too are wise to remain prepared for future events.
Jesus described the five bridesmaids who took “flasks of oil with their lamps” as wise. Torches are instruments of light, but without oil they can’t carry out their purpose. That’s the way it is with our faith. Faith is an “instrument” and a power given to us to light up spiritual realities. For the power and gift of faith to give us spiritual light the “flasks of oil” of good works, prayer, and the Word of God are needed. Otherwise the light of faith grows dim and can even go out through the spiritual night of dangers, temptations, and challenges to life in Christ and the Church.
Faith, like a crusty old lantern we haven’t used in a while, may not work very well for those who haven’t been exercising it through good works, prayer and seeking God’s wisdom. A living faith keeps us prepared for the numerous comings to us in the grace of the Lord and our meeting with Him in our death. We provide the “flasks of oil” our faith needs from our prayer, keeping the Gospel teachings and commandments, and especially through the food and drink of the Lord’s Body and Blood and Word in the Eucharist. The use of time, talents, and treasure in the works of the Church and the kingdom are powerful “flasks of oil” which can continually brighten our light of faith. The foolish don’t provide these necessities needed to keep faith conscious and active.
In Jesus’ parable, when the bridegroom came at midnight, those who had “flasks of oil” for their torches were ready to greet him. The foolish didn’t have enough oil and their torches went out. They pleaded with the wise virgins to give them some of their oil, which was not possible. It was not a lack of charity, but rather the nature of the situation. “No there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.”
There are some things we have to do for ourselves. No one can keep the commandments for us, or form our relationship with the Lord in faith. Just as no one can do our breathing for us, or our eating or sleeping, so no one can substitute for our faith relationship with the Lord. No one can acquire knowledge or wisdom for us. They can only help.
Some life realities are not transferable from one person to another. Often the foolish blame others for their lack of preparedness, such as their parents, teachers, priests, ministers, and spouses. Some blame themselves. As in all fields of life, we need to take personal responsibility. As the Book of Wisdom teaches, wisdom is found by those “who love her”. When we are hungry and thirsty, we have to eat and drink ourselves. The eating of others won’t help us.
“Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” Be like the wise bridesmaids!