1Thes 4:1-8; Ps 97:1-12; Mt 25:1-13
The mountains of prejudice and injustice melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth. With the mustard seed of faith, we pray for the movement of these mountains. We pray with all the Saints that the Lord our King will bring gladness and joy to all the peoples of the earth, to the many isles. The Lord loves all who hate evil and love the evildoer. The Lord guards the lives of his faithful ones and He delivers them from the hands of the wicked. We, who live for the dawn of God’s glory, struggle with the forces of evil still alive and working in our world. We rely on the help of the Lord for our every effort to love sinners and hate sin. Such a struggle is only possible because the Lord is kind and merciful; He is slow to anger, and abounding in love and truth. Such a struggle is worth all our strength and sacrifice because the Lord is faithful to his promise to dawn upon us with gladness for the upright of heart. This is at the heart of Saint Paul’s prayer for his brothers and sisters. This is at the heart of our prayer for one another and all our brothers and sisters in the universal church. Again in today’s gospel, Saint Matthew reminds us to be awake for the coming of Christ, our Bridegroom. It is our prayer at Mass and all through the day that keeps us awake and ready, lamps lit and hearts bright with the Holy Spirit.
Saint Paul earnestly asks and exhorts the Thessalonians to grow even more in living the ways they should, pleasing the Lord God in everything. Saint Paul proclaims to the church back then and to the church today: “This is the will of God, your holiness.” Like our ancestors in the faith we, too, must refrain from immorality, and grow steadily in virtue. If we are not growing in virtue, we are growing in vice. The sanctity of marriage must be preserved in the world that trivializes commitment and exploits lust. As Saint Paul preaches, God does not call us to impurity but to holiness. This apostolic message is needed in our day perhaps even more than it was during his mission among the Thessalonians. Millions of dollars in profit are made every day from the many media outlets that play upon human weakness and failure. It is all too easy for us to develop deadly habits of sin and unfaithfulness. We are assaulted with visual delights and false promises of pleasure in print, film, and Internet. These temptations are constantly at the root of unreal expectations of sexual activity even in a marriage relationship. These temptations are an invitation to escape from loneliness and frustration in all our relationships. These temptations only lead to sin and separation from the love that can truly satisfy our needs and desires. If we disregard the truth of pure and holy love, we not only disregard those we try to love, we also disregard God who gives us the Holy Spirit. It is only the love of God poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who can fill us and enable us to fill one another with love and truth.
With the original disciples of the Lord Jesus, we too, need to hear the parable of the ten wise and ten foolish virgins. Although it is not possible to fully appreciate the wedding customs at the basis of this story, we can still glean a message from the human interaction related in the parable. Did you ever wonder why the wise virgins did not remind the foolish ones earlier that they needed extra oil for their lamps? Perhaps they did not know about the lack of preparation, or perhaps they were giving their fellow virgins the benefit of the doubt. Anyone who had to wait for the arrival of the wedding party could have anticipated a delay. However, the foolish virgins did not bring the necessary supply of oil. Perhaps that’s the point; perhaps that’s why they are called foolish. The church too would be foolish not to anticipate delay of the Lord’s return. Is the Lord not patient and waiting for us to grow in holiness? In the time of waiting we must have enough oil to light the way for the Lord’s return. What is this oil that keeps us burning bright in the night of our waiting? Is it not the Holy Spirit? Is it not the oil of gladness with which we were anointed in our Baptism and Confirmation? The Holy Spirit floods our souls with his gifts, and in using these gifts we live in loving service, enabling us to bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit. It is with love, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, goodness, fortitude and self-control that we burn bright and wait confidently for the arrival of the One who is coming in all His glory.