“The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” (1st Corinthians 1:18)
There were ten maidens, five were foolish and five were wise. The only thing that differentiated the foolish from the wise was the fact that they went along with some extra oil; they didn’t depend on the oil in their lamps.
What is this extra oil? It is going beyond just being an ordinary Christian. The extra oil is living out the holiness of life that is beyond average. It is going the extra mile to help those in need even when they do not ask. It is avoiding hypocrisy; practicing what you preach; living out the dictates of your creed/vows whether in public or in private.
In our first reading today, St. Paul also makes a distinction between foolishness and wisdom. For those doomed for destruction, the cross is to them a stumbling block but for those who destined for eternal life, the cross is the power of God and the wisdom of God. If as a Christian, I am not willing to take up my cross daily to follow Jesus (if I am not willing to sacrifice for the sake of God), I am foolish.
No wonder Jesus says: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
Today, we celebrate an African saint; the great Augustine of Hippo. He was born in Numidia. His family were ethnic North Africans (the Berbers). His father was a pagan, but his mother was a devout Christian. Augustine left his Christian background and joined the Manichean sect, founded by the prophet Mani in 240. He also fell in with friends who followed a hedonist approach to life. Despite his wayward lifestyle, he developed an interest in philosophy and was impressed by the writings of Cicero. Augustine became an expert in Latin and rhetoric.
In his late teens, he developed an affair with a young woman from Carthage. She gave birth to his son Adeodatus in 372. In 384, he was given a more prestigious position as a rhetoric professor at the Imperial Court of Milan. Eventually, he annulled his marriage as he made plans to become a celibate priest. In 386, at the age of 31, he made a formal conversion to Christianity.
Augustine was baptized by Bishop Ambrose in April 388. Afterwards, they returned home to Africa, where his son Adeodatus died shortly after. Augustine gave away his wealth to the poor and converted his house into a monastic foundation for himself and a group of like-minded Christians. He later became a priest and even a Bishop who stood in defence of the true teachings of the Church. His writings helped to formulate some of the church’s doctrines.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, give me the wisdom of the extra oil that I may not be merely a mediocre Christian but one who would carry my cross and follow your steps. Amen.
Bible Study: 1 Corinthians 1:17-25, Psalm 33:1-11 and Matthew 25:1-13).