September 1, 2023
Friday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time
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.” Matthew 25:1–2
The “ten virgins” in this parable refer to the bridesmaids who were following Jewish tradition by going to the home of the bride to await the coming of the groom for a wedding. This parable is one of a few parables Jesus told that emphasizes the importance of being vigilant in our Christian walk. As the parable goes on, we are told that the groom was delayed and that the bridesmaids fell asleep. Upon waking, the foolish ones had no more oil for their lamps and had to leave to get some more. When they returned, they discovered that the groom had already arrived and that the door was locked. They then knocked and said, “Lord, Lord, open the door for us!” But the reply came to them, “Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.” And they missed out on the wedding celebration.
Traditionally, the “oil” has been understood as a reference to charity. The message is simple. As we prepare to meet our Lord in Heaven, it is not enough to make the claim that we are Christians. We must also produce the good fruit of charity by our actions. Faith must result in charity, otherwise it is not true faith at all.
This parable should be taken seriously. We should use it as a regular source of examination of our lives in regard to the charity we have…or do not have. When you look at your life, can you point to regular acts of charity that flow from your love of God and are bestowed upon others? Charity is not based on your preferences in life. It’s not based on what you feel like doing. Charity is always selfless and sacrificial. It always looks toward the good of the other. How much charity is alive in your life? Jesus clearly told this parable because He was aware of many who professed a faith in God but did not live the love of God. It’s very easy to live our lives day in and day out, doing what we do because of our personal likes or dislikes. However, it is very difficult to foster true charity within our souls and to regularly choose to love others because it is good for them.
We must work to foster charity, first, in our thoughts. Critical and condemning thoughts must be eliminated, and we must strive to see others as God sees them. Charity must also direct our words. Our words must be encouraging of others, kind, supportive and merciful. Our actions become charitable when we become generous with our time, go out of our way to serve and are diligent in the ways we express our love of others.
Reflect, today, upon the high calling you have been given to live an active and manifest life of charity. Spend time reflecting upon what charity truly is. Have you allowed yourself to become guided by a more secular and selfish form of “love?” Do you act more out of selfish preferences than out of self-giving and sacrifice? Do you truly build people up and witness the love of God to them? Try to answer these questions seriously. This parable spoken from our Lord is much more than a story. It is truth. And the truth is that some will arrive at the day of judgment without the necessary “oil” for their lamps. Take our Lord seriously and examine your life of charity. Where you are lacking, become fervent in your mission to change. In the end, you will be eternally grateful you did.
My loving Lord, You showed us all that true love is selfless and sacrificial. You came to this world to serve and to give Your sacred life for us all. May I open my life more fully to Your love so that Your love may also affect and direct every relationship I have. Fill me with the gift of charity, dear Lord, so that I will be fully prepared for the day of my particular judgment. Jesus, I trust in You.