Rev. Joseph M. Rampino
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index
Matthew wrote to show that Christ
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
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."
In 1849, at the age of 7, after making his first holy Communion, St. Dominic Savio wrote a series of resolutions in his personal notebook. He declared the following: “I will go to confession often, and to holy Communion as often as my confessor allows, I will keep Sundays particularly holy, my friends will be Jesus and Mary, and I will choose death rather than sin.”
Even at such a young age, he saw clearly what was most important in life, and with great wisdom, laid the groundwork to remain secure in his Christian faith. As a youth, he made decisions about his life that we might expect from people many times older, people who had lived long enough to spend time following their own will and desires, realize the emptiness of a life apart from God, and finally turn back to their faith in repentance.
Perhaps others might look at someone like St. Dominic and think that he ought to have tasted all the world had to offer before deciding to give it up, that there is more than enough time to repent once a person’s own goals and desires are accomplished. A more subtle form of this temptation might be to tell oneself that there will be time to pray and turn to the Lord once the work or crisis of the day or of the moment has passed. On the other side of the to-do list, there will be space to think of heavenly things.
This was perhaps the mindset of the five foolish maidens in Christ’s parable this Sunday. They may not have brought oil enough for their lamps simply because they thought their entrance into the wedding feast was already a sure thing. Their uncaring and carefree attitude suggests that they do not think they really need the bridegroom. They treat him lightly, as someone for whom they do not have to prepare, a person of no real consequence, an option to be taken when all other pleasant things have passed.
This mindset, of course, forgets the uncertainty of our future. St. Dominic Savio was, in fact, called early to the house of the Lord, at the age of 14. In his last days, he remained calm and peaceful, knowing that he was close to the heart of Jesus, and his last words as he passed from this life were, “Oh what beautiful things I see.” The choices he made to remain close to God when he was 7 proved truly wise.
Had Dominic put off his conversion and devotion, deciding that there would be time for friendship with God once he had lived his life and settled down, once he had finished the work he wanted to do and achieved the goals he had set for himself in the world, his peaceful passage to eternity might not have been so sure. Rather than meeting the end of his life in peace and confidence, he would have had to contend with the fear and anxiety of going through a conversion in the space of a moment, or perhaps he would have grown bitter in heart at his misfortune and not returned to God at all.
Following the example of this young saint, we too should decide today to turn to the Lord with real dedication, asking that he convert whatever in our hearts is not yet with him. We do not know if we will have tomorrow, so now is the time to prepare for eternity by allowing the Lord to love us, and truly loving him in return, taking his will as our own, and following the commandments in true wisdom