The Thirty-second Sunday
in Ordinary Time
November 12, 2017
Fr. José Maria Alvim Cortes, F.S.C.B.

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In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us the parable of the ten virgins. Five were wise and five were foolish. The wise ones brought flasks of oil with them and the foolish did not. The former were prudent and the latter were imprudent (cf. Mt 25:1–3).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; ‘the prudent man looks where he is going (Prov. 14:15).’”

The ten virgins were going to wait for the arrival of the bridegroom. The time of his arrival was uncertain. It could have been in one hour or ten. The wise virgins knew where they were going and the foolish did not.

In the parable, there are different images that we should note. The “lamps” represent our faith, the gift that we received on the day of our baptism. On that day, our godfathers lit our candles from an Easter candle.

All the virgins had lamps. However, only five of them brought flasks of oil. The foolish ones brought no oil with them. The meaning of this oil is our relationship with Jesus. Our personal relation with Christ is what keeps the lamp burning. The lamp is a gift. However, to bring or not to bring the oil is up to us. It is our responsibility.

This is something that cannot be borrowed. That is why the prudent ones do not lend the oil to the foolish ones. I always thought: “Why didn’t they lend them some oil? Were they selfish?” Even if they had wanted to, it was not possible. In our relationship with God, no one can be in our place, not our parents, friends, husband or wife. Others can bear witness, pray for me and give me good advice: “Do not forget to bring the oil!” However, they cannot replace me.

The first reading and the Psalm help us to understand this relationship with Christ. The oil of the parable is a heart that is seeking God, a heart that is thirsting for infinite love. The oil is a soul that is not satisfied with small things but longs for great ones: “O God, you are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water” (Ps 63:2).

To be wise is not to be perfect. No one is perfect! It is very interesting that all the virgins “became drowsy and fell asleep” (Mt 25:5) while waiting for the bridegroom. The wise ones were no better than the foolish ones. In the same way, we all fall asleep because we become weary from life and because of our distractions. It is human! However, there was a difference between the two groups of virgins, a difference that saved the wise ones and allowed them to enter the wedding feast. They had oil in their flasks and the bridegroom knew them.

The most important thing in our lives is to keep our relationship with Christ alive. That should be our main concern. During our lives, we must keep the lamp of our faith lit. To understand whether something is moral or immoral, we can ask ourselves whether what we are doing or what we are going to do is for or against our relationship with Christ.

There is a prayer we priests say in silence before communion that ends with these words: “Keep me faithful to your teaching and never let me be parted from you.” That is what we always have to ask for, to be with Jesus and never be parted from him.  Amen.

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