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32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – 12 November 2023

An OIL CRISIS (Mt 25:1-13)

In Mt 24, Jesus mentally prepared His disciples on how to face the future. Great leaders know the importance of the ‘Law of Navigation’. Jesus provides His disciples both direction and hope! Blessedness follows the servant who ‘stays awake and is alert’. On the flip side, ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’ await the foolish and unprepared servant. Now in Mt 25, the disciples face their litmus test with three parables. Today’s gospel is the first among them. An ‘oil crisis’ is the dividing line between being wise or foolish.

Today’s parable revolves on the ten maidens awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom. The Jewish marital customs were known to everyone. There was always a deficiency in punctuality. Following the betrothal, the bridegroom would lead a procession to bring home his new wife. Invited guests knew the rule – be ready and enter in or delay and be locked out – there was no place for the late-commers. The doors would then be shut, and a week-long banquet would follow. When it really mattered, the foolish maidens were not ready.

This parable teaches us that everyone of us is responsible for our own ‘spiritual’ condition. We do not know the coming of the Lord Jesus to meet His bride at the end of time. In the final analysis, wisdom consists in being prepared, being alert and having our ‘lamps lit’. Jesus himself said that it is not all those who say, “Lord, Lord,” who will enter the Kingdom of God. Heaven is an abode for ‘doers of the Will of the Father’. Every moment is stamped ‘Will of God’. We are all ‘Doubly Graced’ and called to live the ‘Sacred Now’. Trying to delay our spiritual preparation is an exercise in futility. The oil of spiritual preparation cannot be bought or borrowed at the last minute. Our relationship with God is a daily journey of conversion and a wake-up call to be alert with our lamps lit.

Sadly, we can spend our whole lifetime polishing the exterior of the lamp while we neglect to fill our lamps with oil. When law replaces love or when rituals supersede true worship, or when unforgiveness rules the heart and one’s life becomes closed to the prompting of the Spirit, then, beware of these red flags! You are running out of oil. The saddest words that Jesus ever spoke is found in today’s gospel. “Sir, open the door for us!” But he called back, “I do not know you!” (Mt 25:12). The Lord’s return is promised, and He invites us with these words, “So stay awake and be prepared, because you do not know the day or the hour of my return.”

Fr Glenford Lowe

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