In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear of ten virgins, five foolish and five wise. The five wise ones have flasks of oil with their lamps. The foolish do not. Now, why couldn’t the five who had thought of it simply share some of their oil with the others? Why did they have to make it so complicated? It could all have been so simple. Instead it goes all wrong. While the young girls are off buying more oil, the bridegroom arrives. The door is being locked, and when they are back, they can’t come in.
The immediate question that arises is regarding the oil and what it signifies. Some have proposed that the oil is our good deeds that come from living lives of faith. But what if the oil is the virtue of faith itself? Suddenly it seems that the whole parable makes sense as the virtue of faith gives one the ability to faithfully wait for the bridegroom’s arrival.
The virtue of faith enables us to accept as true and choose to live by the body of truths that are found in the Creeds and in the teachings of the Church, for these are based upon divine Revelation, which includes both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. The power of faith is essentially the power to believe in God’s revelation of Himself and His will for us and to obey that revelation and will.
However, it is not enough just to wait for the bridegroom with the others. God is not asking us just to ‘hang around’, He wants our personal involvement. The Church is the institution who has as her prime mission to announce the Gospel of the Lord, leading all people to faith by the sacraments and the liturgy, and through the lives of every Catholic who witnesses to the goodness and mercy of God. The Church is a community project. It is through the people of God that the presence of Christ is realized here on earth, as we wait for our Lord’s second coming on the last day.
But at the same time the salvation of humanity is not brought about in a Marxist fashion. The work of salvation is not realized as though by the community. It also involves the individual, with his or her personal involvement. Faith involves a personal encounter between Christ and a person, a work of the Holy Spirit that makes present God’s Kingdom and the Father Himself.
After having received the Sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation, and as we are nourished by Christ’s own Body and Blood, we are meant to grow in intimate friendship with Jesus through our earthly pilgrimage. The nourishing oil that permits this growth is the Holy Spirit working in us in wonderful ways.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the wisest theologian or the criminal on the cross; we are all called to enter into relationship with our God and Savior in an always deeper way. The Holy Spirit works in us, but God also calls for our cooperation. The loving relation God wishes for also involves our will and our whole being. We must seek God where He is to be found. He comes to us in the Eucharist and in the life of prayer of the Church. He reaches out to us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And He often touches us through those who are around us.