32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
At the death of the old lighthouse keeper, a young man was appointed in his place. He was told how to tend and trim the lamp, and how to keep it supplied with oil, of which there were many big containers on hand. In fair weather, the harbor was quite safe; but in a storm he was to light the lamp and keep it burning as a guide to approaching vessels.
The weather was fair for some time and the young keeper found little to do. He became very friendly with the fishermen, who often stopped by to borrow from his stock of oil, to save themselves a trip to the harbor. At length the reserve of oil was almost gone.
One evening the lighthouse keeper could see none of the fishermen about; they kept close to shore. The keeper was told that a storm was brewing. Immediately he thought of lighting the lamp; but he found the lamp empty. He rushed down to the oil containers only to find that they were empty too.
In a moment the storm broke and engulfed everything. In vain the wind-tossed ships looked for the harbor light. Many were dashed to pieces.
This story is a good illustration of Christians who fail to give light because of a lack of oil of grace. When we do not keep our life of spirit filled with oil of grace it brings great disaster both to ourselves and to others. That is why we have to keep our life lighted and enlightened by God’s grace in order that we may serve as light, and that our light may keep shining.
Today’s gospel talks about ‘having’ and ‘not having’ enough oil for the lamp. It talks about one’s duty (and the failure to perform it) of being light. The five wise bridesmaids in the parable had foreseen that the bridegroom might very well be delayed. Consequently, they had taken the precaution of providing themselves with oil. This was something the five foolish bridesmaids had failed to do. The foolish ones proved incapable of fulfilling their essential task, which was to illumine the way of the wedding procession.
Jesus says, “Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” With these words Jesus asks his followers to ponder his return and to be always prepared “for the unexpected.”
This raises an important question that we must ask: What constitutes being always prepared? What does the lamp in the gospel parable represent and what does the oil in the bridesmaids’ lamps stand for? We can get the answer from the Sermon on the Mount. There Jesus compares the good deeds people do to oil burning brightly in a lamp. Jesus says, “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Mt. 5:16) The oil that keeps our lamps flaming and shining are the good seeds in our hearts and the good deeds we do in our daily life.
Let’s make sure that our lamps are filled with the oil of grace that they may remain flaming and shining until the Lord Jesus returns. Let us keep our lamps filled with the oil of God’s goodness, kindness and generosity so that we can be good and kind and do good to others and generous in sharing ourselves and what we have. To be good and kind even to those who are not good and kind to us, even to those who seem to make life difficult for us, and even to those who take for granted what we do for them. Let us keep our lamps filled with the oil of God’s clemency, mercy and forgiveness so that we can be merciful to sinners like us and forgiving to one another. To show mercy, not judgment and condemnation, to those who are morally weak and lost and to help them to find the way to repentance and conversion. To forgive those who have hurt us, who have failed us, who have betrayed us – to forgive them without setting limits. Let us keep our lamps filled with the oil of God’s loving compassion and compassionate love so that we can feel the pain of the suffering Christ in the person of the sick, the weak and the afflicted, To let this compassion move us to do something to alleviate their pain, to better their situation, and to help them to experience wholeness.
The lamp of our life must be ever-full with the oil of our self-sacrificing and self-giving love, of our practical charity, of our humble service, of our acts of mercy and forgiveness, of our active participation in the life and mission of the Church, and of our good stewardship of God’s gifts to us. Let us pour in our lamp enough oil everyday – the oil of God’s grace.