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November 8, 2020
[Benedictine Monastery of Mary, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, Waialua]
In college, I remember one classmate who stayed up all night to study for a test. He felt he was very well prepared for the test. But he fell asleep at his desk in the middle of the test and failed it. Here “keep your eyes open” took on a different meaning. He kept his eyes open during the night, but ran out of oil during the test, because he was not wise enough to invest in a little sleep before the test.
I think this parable has applications for all of us:
- The priest who gradually lets go of prayer time in his life because he is just too busy, then soon finds he is not so interested in being a priest. He didn’t provide any extra oil for his lamp.
- The married couple who spends so much time with work or children that they never take time for themselves, then they find that when one stops working or when the children are no longer so dependent on them, they don’t really know each other and don’t feel any love for each other. They failed to provide the extra oil they needed to keep the flame burning.
- The student who does not take his studies seriously, and who later in life regrets that his education is not what it could have been. He took just enough oil to get through but no more, and the consequences are severe.
- The society that allows itself to watch TV programs in which dozens of people are killed nightly, and then wonders why there is so much violence and crime around -- or that becomes accepting of legal violence such as abortion or capital punishment. It did not provide for itself oil that would bring light rather than darkness.
- The society that laments the sexually transmitted diseases, teenage pregnancies and making sex trivial, yet whose media portrays casual sexual encounters as a virtue. It has not provided for itself the oil of self-discipline, of genuine friendship and love, of respect for another, and so it suffers the consequences.
During this month of November we remember our beloved dead in a special way, and we reflect on our own attitudes toward death, of which St. Paul speaks today. Without faith, death is so final and so destructive of relationships we value. But if we fill ourselves with the oil of faith, it takes on a different perspective. It is a cause for hope for our loved ones and for ourselves, because of Jesus, the Anointed One, who rose from the dead so that we might rise from the dead.
We cannot turn any of these things around without the gift of wisdom. It is not something we can give ourselves; it is truly a free gift from God. Yet there are things we can do to open ourselves to receive the gift and to let the gift be effective within us and among us.
- Prayer is extremely important -- not just a daily “Hi, God!” but a deep and constant awareness of God’s presence with us in all ways and in everything.
- Listening to God as he speaks to us in the Scriptures and as he speaks to us most eloquently in Jesus.
- Participating in the sacraments, where we physically encounter God in the community of faith.
- Seeing each person we meet as a precious daughter or son of God and therefore as our sister or brother.
God alone knows when the Bridegroom will come. He may be delayed for many years. But when he comes, we want to be able to have the light to see him clearly, and so we start now begging God for the holy oil of wisdom from the Holy Spirit, so that the light will never be extinguished.