32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A
Wisdom 6:12-16; 1Thes 4:1-18; Matt 25:1-13
November 7/8, 2020
Somewhere in the Bible it says that all of scripture is inspired by God and useful for our instruction, so what we read in the Scriptures in some way can apply to our lives and use for our benefit. So, when we hear today in the Gospel of the wise and foolish virgins, all of whom knew the bridegroom was coming (and knew he was coming soon) but only half of them had prepared their lamps, that is to say, themselves, to meet him, we should ask, “How does this apply to me?” When we hear St. Paul in the second reading tell us that Jesus will return, and when he does, all who believe him will be caught up in him and with all the saints into heaven, we can ask, “How does this apply to me?” Or, when we hear in the responsorial psalm that psalmist’s “flesh pines” and his “soul thirsts” for God, and how he remembers God even in the depths of the night, we can ask ourselves, “How does this apply to my lif e
Perhaps it is best to start with this. The Church teaches that everyone — you included — are called to be holy. All of us, not just the clergy and religious, or a few outstanding individuals we read about in the history books, are called to be saints.
To become a saint is another way of saying to become the person God created you to be. Have you ever thought about that? You will be a saint if you become the person God created you to be whatever your station in life may be. To be a saint is sort of like being the center of God’s attention and having God be the center of your attention. God created us to be the center of his attention for all eternity. In fact, even before we existed, God had an idea of us in his mind and from this idea he created us at a certain moment so that we would keep him at the center of our attention. I personally do not like being the center of anyone’s attention. I don’t like the gaze directed toward me when someone gives me a birthday party. I don’t like all the questions people begin to ask me, all the gifts they give me that I have to open and acknowledge in some way. Also, I have a hard time making God the center of my attention because I am so distracted by other “important” concerns most days and I am uncomfortable with what God may ask of me if I pay attention to him. So, sometimes we just find God interesting, and we are curious about him, but that is as far as we take it.
But God expects more.
He wants us to “pine” and “thirst” for him like the psalmist says. He wants us to love him. In becoming saints, i.e. becoming who God created us to be, we have to find a way to deeply desire God and to be ready when he comes into our lives. We have to find a way to put oil in our lamps like the wise virgins. We have to be ready to go from being curious about God to loving him and be loved by him.
Most of us start out like the foolish virgins. The foolish ones were certainly curious about the bridegroom, but did not pine for him, did not thirst for him, were not yet in love with him. They didn’t have oil in their lamps. They showed up out of curiosity. Most of us start out that way, curious, but not in love. We are not born saints; we become saints with the passage of time and the help of others. The Gospel today warns us that we cannot waste a lot of time with simple curiosity; we must quickly fall in love with God, and to let ourselves be loved by him. Yes, he must become that important to us, and we must realize that we are that important to him — he loves us that much.
We need oil if we are to become saints.
What is the oil that we must have to trim our lamps and to be prepared for the coming of the Lord? If our lamps are not filled with that oil, our souls will not thirst and our bodies will not pine for God; our hearts will not burn with love. The oil we need is life in the Church and the grace of the sacraments, especially Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, and yes, regular recourse to the Sacrament of Penance. The sacramental life of the Church is the oil that fills our lamps and keep the fire of our love for God and God’s love for us burning in our lives. We obtain this oil by receiving the sacraments. Our hearts will not burn with love for God if we have not allowed God to love us in the sacraments. We will not thirst and pine for the living God if we do not gather as a community of faith. We will be like the foolish virgins and not be prepared for his coming if we keep ourselves away from the sacraments and the life of the Church.
None of us are born with this wisdom; it is passed on to us by the Church, by other believers, and by God himself. The oil we need is obtained through our relationships with faithful Catholics and our participation in the life of the Church. Even the foolish virgins realized this at the very end, although far too late, when they asked the wise virgins to give oil to them.
We all begin as curious seekers, but if we remain there and never take the next step, which is to love God, to be awake and vigilant standing side by side with fellow believers and filled with the graces of the sacraments, if we do not take those steps, we will be left out in the darkness. It will be by our choice, not by God’s design or desire. This is what happened to the five foolish virgins.
Yes, we all are called to be saints. God recognizes a heart in love with him, and will call such a person to himself when he comes again in his glory at the end of time. We are all called to be in love with God and to be loved by him, for that is, in the very end of our lives, what will matter and make all the difference in the world.