An old man was in the habit of walking to the church of his choice every Sunday morning. The old man was deaf and could not hear a word of the homily or the music or the singing of the congregation.
One day his grandson asked him, “Grandpa! Why do you waste all that time in that church every Sunday when you can't hear a word that's said?”
The old man replied, “I want the neighbours to know which side I'm on.”
There is wisdom in that old man’s words. “I want the neighbours to know which side I’m on.” You might add, “I want the devil to know which side I am on.” “I want God to know which side I am on.” And “I want me to know which side I am on.”
Wisdom, waiting and watching are the three words from our three readings for this Sunday.
Dictionary defines wisdom is an accumulated of philosophic or scientific learning and the ability to discern inner qualities and relationship, a good sense of judgment. A wise person shows the ability to make good judgments, based on deep understanding and experience of life.
The First Reading speaks about biblical wisdom. Possessing this wisdom is better than all other sense of prudence and knowledge. This biblical wisdom is personified as a “she.” Whoever seeks her will find her. This wisdom is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is ready to be found by those who desire for her, seek her and love her. A person who has the Holy Spirit and guided by the Holy Spirit will seek God above all else. The responsorial psalm reflects the soul of a person who has this wisdom. “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.” Possessing this wisdom gives us the sense of need to be watchful and prayerful in waiting for the coming of Christ.
One of the standard pieces of equipment in an automobile is a spare tire. The reason for this is, of course, most obvious. It is a common sense precaution to take one along so that we are not left stranded if we have a flat tire on the road. Not too long ago, I was on my way to the Co-cathedral to concelebrate a Mass. When I crossed the railroad to highway 90, I discovered that I had a flat tire on the passenger’s side. I drove to the gas station only to discover that my spare tire was not a full size one, and it was also flat. I had to cancel my trip and called for help. I was so disappointed. I then decided to buy a full-size spare tire to keep in the trunk of my car. I asked myself, “Why didn't I check beforehand to see if I had a spare, or to see if it was any good?” Well, I just assumed it was there in good condition.
We can get into the habit of taking God and faith for granted as regards to our spiritual and eternal values. Jesus uses the parable about the ten bridesmaids who go out to meet the groom to tell us that we need to be constantly vigilant. Five of them had the foresight to take extra oil along with them. They were not victimized by the unexpected late arrival of the groom. The other five were foolish. They assumed that the bridegroom would come on time and so did not take extra oil along. They were unprepared.
Could there be that many foolish people? According to Jesus, five of them went to heaven with the groom, and the other five were not admitted in; five had life and five faced eternal death. That is 50 per cent each. We would fall into one of these two categories. There is no mention of in-between state. When it comes to being prepared for Christ's return, we are either wise by being prepared or foolish by not being ready to receive him. Clearly, Jesus wants us to be prepared at all times, for no one knows the hour. A time will come when no further preparation is possible. St. Paul reminds the Thessalonians to be prepared to meet the Lord. He assures the Thessalonians that no one who believes in Jesus will miss out the glory to come. So to be prepared means to have faith in Jesus.
It is interesting wonder why couldn't the wise women share their oil with the foolish ones? There is something in life that cannot be borrowed. The oil in this parable is faith. My faith is mine. Your faith is yours. You and I cannot live on someone else's faith. You cannot borrow my faith; and I cannot borrow yours. We can help one another in so many other ways, but at some point we are on our own. The reason the five wise women cannot give their oil is that God alone gives faith. God is the source of faith-supply. God is the faith-refilling station. These five foolish ones already received the gift of faith, but they need to practice their faith in God so that their lamps are constantly filled. They did not spend the watching-waiting time well which meant they did not keep alive their relationship with Christ, the groom. The oil of faith ran out. Their lamps became dried.
Our life is a lamp. This lamp is filled with faith-oil. The filling station is our relationship with God. This relationship is in a constant vigilant state. Therefore, Jesus says, “Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” It is up to each of us to keep the lamps of our life burning. To believe in Jesus and to stay in the relationship with Him means to keep the lamp of our life filled with this oil. This will keep the lamp burning. A life without faith is a lamp without oil. Faith in Jesus Christ is the oil. This faith will inspire us to live a virtuous life, to do good deeds, to pray, to practice charity, to attend church, and to live a devout Catholic life etc. You parents cannot be responsible for the oil of your lamp. Husbands cannot depend upon the devotion of their wives for the lamp of their life to shine. Once in a while some men might excusably say: “My wife handles the religion in our family.” I hope this is only a joke!
According to the 2011 Survey from National Catholic Reporter, 73 percent of American Catholics say that “belief in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead” is very important to them. 64 percent say that the church’s teachings about Mary as the mother of God and the sacraments such as the Eucharist are also very important. 46 percent say that having a regular daily prayer life is very important, and 36 percent see devotional activities such as participation in Eucharistic adoration or praying the rosary as very important to them as Catholics. It is noteworthy that helping the poor is almost as core to Catholics’ identity as their belief in Jesus’ resurrection, with 67 percent rating this dimension of Catholicism as very important. Large majorities say that a person can be a good Catholic without going to church every Sunday (78 percent), without obeying the church hierarchy’s teaching on birth control (78 percent), without their marriage being approved by the church (72 percent), and without obeying the church hierarchy’s teaching on divorce and remarriage (69 percent).1
Faith-watching, faith-waiting, is active, lively, expressive of the relationship with Jesus. Is the oil of your lamp full or half-full?