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Pesky Oil, Foolish Virgins

First Reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Brothers and sisters, we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, as you received from us how you should conduct yourselves to please God– and as you are conducting yourselves– you do so even more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. This is the will of God, your holiness: that you refrain from immorality, that each of you know how to acquire a wife for himself in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion as do the Gentiles who do not know God; not to take advantage of or exploit a brother or sister in this matter, for the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you before and solemnly affirmed. For God did not call us to impurity but to holiness. Therefore, whoever disregards this, disregards not a human being but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 97:1 AND 2B, 5-6, 10, 11-12

Rejoice in the Lord, you just! The LORD is king; let the earth rejoice; let the many isles be glad. Justice and judgment are the foundation of his throne. The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the LORD of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his justice, and all peoples see his glory. The LORD loves those who hate evil; he guards the lives of his faithful ones; from the hand of the wicked he delivers them. Light dawns for the just; and gladness, for the upright of heart. Be glad in the LORD, you just, and give thanks to his holy name.

Gospel: Matthew 25:1-13

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.”

ESV

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Sometimes, you read something in the Bible and you’re like, “What the WHAT?” Right? ‘Cause it just seems really . . . harsh.

Today’s Gospel reading, the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, is one of those times.

On first reading, the story seems to be about preparedness. And it is. But you can’t help but notice a couple of things. One, the punishment is really severe. The foolish virgins didn’t do anything THAT bad, they were there, they had their lamps, they just forgot to bring extra oil. They went to get some and they were going to be RIGHT back. But they get shut out of the wedding, and the bridegroom won’t even acknowledge that he ever knew them. Ouch.

Even worse, the wise virgins are total jerks and won’t share. And THEY get to go right in and party.

What is going ON?

It seems like a pretty easy fix that they’d share, and they’d all get to go to the wedding. But, of course, it’s a parable. It’s a story about one thing, that’s meant to teach us something else. It’s not really about oil. Oil you CAN share. But not everything works like that.

If the current events of the last couple of months have taught us anything, it’s that sometimes we can have something that it just isn’t possible to share with those we love the most. The wise virgins are WISE. That’s not something you can just hand over to a friend. They probably also have the other gifts of the Holy Spirit: understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. Those aren’t ours to give away. Only the Holy Spirit can do that.

We all have friends or family members who really do seem to WANT to understand, but just don’t get it when we try to explain the Church’s position on a theological or social issue. It can be frustrating and heartbreaking, especially if we remember a time when we believed as they did. We’ve come to understand why the Church holds certain positions, and now we want everyone to see things the way we do.

But, alas, that pesky free will. We can’t MAKE our loved ones see things our way, and neither will the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, the best we can do is be there, with our extra oil, hoping and praying that our friends will ask us where we got it, BEFORE they miss the party.

Join me in praying that today?

photo by Corynne Olivia

Kendra Tierney lives in Los Angeles, CA where her interests include blogging, homeschooling, looking after her eight children, and suburban homesteading . . . in case of zombies. You can find out more about her here.

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