Sunday, November 12, 2023

How do we fill our reservoirs? (Sunday homily)

 This parable is one that I have found difficult to unravel 

over the years. Maybe you have too. 

As I dug into it, I drew a lot of insights from an article 

by a Protestant professor named Jack Crabtree. 

He points out that the two groups of virgins 

are alike in almost every respect. 

They are all invited to the wedding; 

they are all carrying lamps; they all bring some oil. 

They all fall asleep; and they all wake up at the same time.

And – here is the key detail – if the Bridegroom had come right away, 

all these young women would have entered together into the wedding.

What stands out is that five of them 

were equipped for the unexpected; 

they were prepared to wait and wait and wait. 

A surprise turn of events did not throw them off.

So, what made the difference for those who made it into the wedding – 

that is, into the Kingdom, into salvation?

What enabled those five virgins to stay calm and collected, 

despite being thrown a curve-ball?

They had that extra reservoir of oil – 

that is, they were well rooted in the Lord.

Where does that reserve of “oil” come from?

The hard truth is that you and I are the sum of our habits, 

either good or bad.

If you face a crisis, what is your first instinct? Is it:

(a) To cry and hope someone else fixes it?

(b) To figure out your excuse, and who to blame?

(c) To go back to bed and pretend it’s not happening?

Or, how about:

(d) To pray?

(e) To look around for who needs help first? To run to the fire?

(f) Or, to seek counsel from the wisest people available?

(g) To draw from what you learned from the saints, or the Bible?

See? That crisis is when we draw from whatever reservoir we have, either good or bad.

Each of us learn by imitating others’ habits, either good or bad;

In time, we cultivate our own set of habits, again, either good or bad.

We end up producing in our lives either 

a well-tended garden of useful things, or an untamed patch of weeds. 

So, for example, if you don’t develop a habit of prayer in times of calm, 

what makes you think you’ll have that extra oil when trouble hits?

What we want, of course, are good habits, or virtues:

the three supreme virtues are: Faith, Hope and Love.

There are many vices opposed to these, among them:

Self-pride, cynicism, doubt and despair, and selfishness.

We also refer to the “cardinal,” or hinge, virtues of

Courage, Temperance, Justice and Prudence.

And again, there are many contrary vices,

such as faint-heartedness, self-indulgence, wrath, greed and laziness.

This is a good time to talk about the deeply disappointing results 

of last week’s referendum.

I was discouraged and upset.

Many of us were probably deeply shaken.

It’s essential to remember that there’s both the big picture,

And our own little part of the picture.

Each of us has our duty to pray, to vote, to bear witness.

The whole picture, the whole battlefield? That belongs to God.

Some people – and you know who you are – 

carry the weight of it all, as if the outcome were all on you.

But God never made you responsible 

for the decisions of all the voters in Ohio. 

Each of the ten virgins was responsible for herself.

I just want to ask gently, if the election, or social trends, 

or something else, is really bothering you,

are you forgetting in whose hands this all rests? Not yours!

If we never faced any opposition or twists and turns,

We’re the first five virgins whose plan was instant success;

no need for reserves of faith and fortitude.

But not only is that not our 21st century world, 

It was never the landscape for any generation of Christians!

This is our invitation to dig deep 

and cultivate the virtue of faith and of hope.

And last Tuesday’s outcome doesn’t change our duty 

to be a source of hope and healing for as many women and families 

as we can who will, sadly, face tremendous pressure to seek abortions.

With or without the help of good laws, we can still be a light to them.

Another reason we need our oil reservoir full to the brim.

So how do we fill them?

Embrace each day as a gift from our Savior; 

Give your day, each day, to him, whatever may come.

Invite him along your day’s journey.

Get to confession regularly; you’ll find your reservoirs getting deeper.

Stay close to Jesus, the true Light.

When day is done, do a look back, ask pardon and give thanks;

and then sleep the sleep of the well-prepared waiting for the Kingdom,

tomorrow, next week, next year, or whenever the Lord chooses.

1 comment:

rcg said...

Fortuna Eruditis Favet ("fortune favours the prepared mind"). Prayer is vital to preparing for unexpected happenings. It is not a passive acceptance, but an active displacement of self and selfish desires with the willingness to do what needs to be done for the outcome we would be willing to present to God.