Resplendent and unfading is wisdom,
and she is readily perceived by those who love her,
and found by those who seek her.
She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire;
Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed,
for he shall find her sitting by his gate.
For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence,
and whoever for her sake keeps vigil
shall quickly be free from care;
because she makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her,
and graciously appears to them in the ways,
and meets them with all solicitude.
Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
In today’s Gospel, the Lord shows us another image of the Church. Because of our fallen human nature, we Christians can be foolish in spite of the great wisdom that God gives us through Church teaching.
In a homily on this parable, St. Augustine warns us not to be too quick to think of ourselves as smarter than the “foolish virgins.” After all, they had spiritual virginity, that is, the virtue of faith and a commitment to live Christian lives. They also had lamps, that is, good works that showed the light of Christ before men.
All that they lacked was extra oil, meaning a deep store of charity, or love, present in their own hearts. Just like oil rises to the top when poured on any other liquid, love is the greatest virtue. As St. Paul tells us, love “endures all things.” It lasts to the end, whereas everything done without charity is “brought to nothing.” (1 Cor 13:7-8)
From time to time, we need to take a break from what we are doing, even the good things we do for others, and look into our own hearts. Are we motivated by love for God, or something less than that, like a desire for human approval?
If we find that we lack charity, let us not go out to “the merchants” of the world, but instead turn to Our Lord, who will give us whatever we need to live the Christian life well. He is just waiting for us to ask.
Please be assured of my prayers before Our Lord, present in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
+ Bishop Schlert