“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:13)
Last Sunday, we celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints. We reflected on the meaning of sainthood as our primary calling as Christians. Our Psalmist asked: “Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord?” and in response, it noted: “the clean of hands and the pure of heart.” Jesus also added: “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God.” As much as purity of heart (or virginity) is required for attaining heaven, Jesus points out today, another very essential element; wisdom. In the parable of ten virgins, Jesus shows us that purity without wisdom is useless. The foolish virgins made mistakes. What were these mistakes and how do we avoid them?
Mistake Number One: They cared more about their appearance.
The foolish virgins were too busy trying to look good that they basically forgot to check if the oil in their lamps would be enough. There are some Christians who come late to Holy Mass because they spent hours before the mirror trying several outfits or doing different kinds of make-up. When we spend all our time trying to look good, we forget it is God we are going to worship. Instead of paying attention during Mass, we are taking note of those admiring us. In the end, we go home empty.
To avoid this mistake, you must Make Wisdom a Priority. Stop being concerned about your looks and appearances and start to seek out wisdom. As our First Reading this morning puts it: “She is easily discerned by those who love her, and is found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her. He who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty, for he will find her sitting at his gates.” (Wisdom 6:12-14)
That is to say when you begin to pursue wisdom, she herself will fly to embrace you. What efforts do make every day to seek out wisdom? When last did you pick up a book to read? (Not to mention the Holy Bible). Very often, we assume that wisdom comes with age but this is a big lie. After all, the wise virgins were the same age range as the foolish ones.
Mistake Number Two: They thought there was time.
Was it absolutely necessary for the foolish virgins to go and buy oil when they heard the bridegroom had arrived in town? Were they hoping to find stores still open at midnight? They must have gone knocking on the doors of several oil merchants begging to buy oil. The second mistake of the foolish virgins was their assumption that they would easily get oil to buy and return before the door would be shut. This is the lesson Jesus seeks to drive home to us today: Never assume that you have time. “Watch therefore for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
When I am discussing with old people, I notice how freely they talk about their deaths, smiling about it as if it is something they are expecting. For such persons, I think death is afraid of them because they have already conquered death. It is natural to assume that you would die at old age but as we learn today, this natural assumption is foolishness. Death can happen at any time. Old age is not certain. Now is all you have. Repent, end that secret evil that you are ashamed of. Begin to walk as a child of the light now. Never put on till tomorrow that which you can do today.
Mistake Number Three: They relied on their past.
We do not know how long it took for these foolish virgins to buy oil but when they returned, they called: “Lord, Lord, open to us.” The Master of the Feast heard their voices but given the time of the night, he must have felt there were some armed robbers with them so without opening the door, he simply said: “I do not know you.” The very fact that the foolish virgins stepped out of the banquet hall at all shows they were more interested in showing off their lamps than in actually meeting the bridegroom. How strong is your desire for God? Is it the same as when you first gave your life to Christ?
The foolish virgins felt that since they had been admitted once into the banquet all, they would be admitted again. They were relying on their past record but it failed them. It may surprise you to note that there are some Christians who hold onto the false doctrine of “once saved, forever saved.” This teaching comes from the pit of hell. To assume that you don’t have to make an effort to live a godly life all because you are born again, baptised or confirmed is the greatest mistake you can ever make. To say that the blood of Jesus shed on the cross of Calvary has removed even the sins you are planning to commit is to deceive yourself.
As God says speaking through the prophet Ezekiel: “When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity and does the same abominable things that the wicked man does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds which he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, he shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:24). Our Psalmist today sings: “For you my soul is thirsting, O Lord, my God.” Is your soul still thirsting for God today or have you started thirsting for something else?
Conclusion: Always Go the Extra Mile (Take some Extra Oil).
None of the virgins knew the exact time the bridegroom was coming but some went the extra mile to take oil along with their lamps. If the bridegroom had come earlier, their extra oil would not be useful but in the end, this decision saved them. In our second reading today, St. Paul speaks of the second coming of Christ which we know would mark the end of the world but he does not tell us when this would happen. No one is sure when the bridegroom; Jesus Christ, will come again but for now, we must act wisely by taking extra oil.
If Jesus could accept baptism just to fulfil all righteousness, it means there is no room for the mediocre Christian in heaven. We must avoid minimalism when it comes to our spiritual lives. Don’t just try to do your best; strive for sainthood. Be exceptional at everything you do. Challenge yourself each day to be better, holier and wiser. Never settle for less. As Jesus admonishes us: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, give me the wisdom to conquer death even before my time. Amen.
Bible Study: Wisdom 6:12-16, Psalm 63, 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18 and Matthew 25:1-13).