A Homily for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sunday, November 12, 2023
Holy Ghost Church – 10:00 Mass
Wisdom 6:12-16; Psalm 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13
Our Gospel today emphasizes that we are wise when we spend our time in preparation for our death, for the Second Coming of Christ, and for the wedding feast of heaven. We are warned against living foolish lives wasted on the pursuit of things that have no eternal value.
Today we hear a parable about 10 virgins who are awaiting the coming of the bridegroom. The bridegroom is meant to be Christ himself…the bridegroom of the Church. The virgins are understood to represent the Christian community. Five of these virgins are wise and five are foolish.
We may ask what this is all about…why are 10 virgins waiting for the bridegroom? Well, in first-century Palestine a wedding procession was guided by maiden torchbearers. These young ladies led a long procession of family members and friends of the bride and groom down the street as they sang and danced to celebrate the marriage. When they finally reached their destination, guided by the light of the torches carried by the young maidens, the wedding feast began.
If the virgins arrived at the procession without enough oil to keep their torches burning, they would certainly be embarrassed when their torches went out during the procession. It would also have been a sign of disrespect that they showed up without properly preparing. If the wedding party was delayed, they certainly knew they should have enough reserve oil to account for this delay.
If they didn’t show up with enough oil, they couldn’t just borrow some from the others. Doing so would risk that there wouldn’t be enough to keep all the torches burning during the procession. Imagine if all the torches went out halfway through the route! This would be a disaster for the wedding party and their families & friends. There would be no light to lead the procession!
With this background on today’s parable, let’s now look at what it means for us today. Jesus’ teaching is a warning to each of us to be prepared like the wise virgins so that when our time comes to meet the Lord, we’ll have flasks full of oil, oil that will be needed for our torches to be burning brightly.
So just what is this oil we must have in our flasks when we come to the time of our death? What exactly is it that will keep our torches burning when we meet the Lord?
If we read this parable in light of Matthew’s Gospel as a whole, it can be understood that the oil represents our GOOD WORKS. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus compares good deeds to the light of a lamp that must “shine before others.” Later he speaks about someone who calls out “Lord, Lord,” but who fails to do the will of the Father. He tells us that he will say to such a person “I never knew you.”
This statement is nearly identical to his response to the foolish virgins in today’s Gospel when they return to find the door to the banquet hall locked and he tells them “I do not know you.” These and other statements of Christ in Matthew’s gospel make it quite likely that the oil represents the good works that are entrusted to each of us by the Father.
I like to think of it this way. At baptism and confirmation we receive a full flask of oil. We are given spiritual gifts and other resources that God expects us to use in service of him – in service of our neighbor – rather than using them exclusively for our own selfish gain.
Whenever we use the gifts God has given us, we burn some of this oil. When we use our gifts and resources in in service of God and neighbor, our flask gets refilled. However, our oil flasks don’t get refilled when we use our gifts exclusively for our own benefit, never sharing them with others. Never lighting the path for others.
We will each bring our flask of oil with us to our meeting with the Lord at the time of our death. And we must be prepared to meet him at any time. None of know when we will die. We can’t assume that we’ll always have plenty of time to refill our flasks by doing good works at some time in the future, when we think we’ll have more time.
If we are living a selfish life we will quite likely not have time, or even the desire, to refill our flasks as our end draws near. In fact, we may never even have an idea that the end is drawing near. Our death may come in an instant, without any warning.
We should all ask ourselves if we are using our God-given gifts to do the good works necessary to keep our oil flasks full. If the only thing we are doing to refill our flasks is going to Mass once a week and confession once a year, I dare say that we risk coming up short.
Rather than getting by with the minimum, our souls must THIRST for the Lord, as we proclaimed today in our responsorial psalm. We must be deeply in love with Christ and show this love in our care for our neighbor. This is how we can be sure we will have enough oil to keep our torch burning brightly when we go to meet Christ.
We are each offered the grace and ample opportunity to persevere in good works, thereby acquiring the oil that we will need when we meet the Lord. By living a life of service to others our torches will be burning brightly and we will be welcomed into the wedding feast of the kingdom.
Today’s parable reminds us that if we don’t have enough oil for our torches, we risk being told by the bridegroom that he doesn’t know us. Then it will be too late…the door to the heavenly feast will be locked and we will not be permitted to enter.
So I ask you…do you have enough oil in your flask? Are your good deeds preparing you to meet the bridegroom? Are you using your gifts now to help others and bring them into his kingdom?
If not, resolve today to make the changes you need to make to show God that you are taking his invitation to the heavenly wedding banquet seriously. Resolve today to do better to prepare yourself to meet your maker, your bridegroom, by living each day he gives you in service of him through the service of others.
God bless you.