August 26, 2011 - Friday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

It is very difficult for us to understand this parable. Why are ten virgins waiting outside for the bridegroom? Why do they need lamps? Even scholars are not sure. What is definite is that these virgins are not the brides. Our best guess is that they are more like bridesmaid; they are waiting to process the bridegroom into his feast.

Let us forget about the foolish virgins and consider two details about the wise virgins. First, they have flasks of oil with them. What do these flasks signify? We do not know. They are something extra, something beyond, but what they are is uncertain. After all the virgins fell asleep, they need what is in the flask. Perhaps it is prayer or study. The wise virgins had a stronger foundation of prayer and studying the Scriptures and the Catechism, so they were able to be ready when the time came.

The oil in the flask could also be a symbol of the Holy Spirit; oil often is used to symbolize the Holy Spirit. Then we would say that the light of faith burned out in those who were relying only on themselves for faith. The Holy Spirit is the only fuel for our faith that is sure to be there when we need it.

The second detail could be called holy selfishness. The wise virgins do not let the foolish virgins share what is in the flasks. There are many people in this world who would like to keep you from doing what you need to do to be ready for Christ, people who will complain that you are praying or studying or going to Mass when they need you for their own purposes. Do not let them prevent you from being prepared. Be selfish!

We do have human relationships which demand our time and effort. Failing to live up to them is not a holy thing. A mother who did not care for her children but spent all her time in prayer as if she were a nun would not be practicing true devotion. Nevertheless, our relationship with God comes first. We must not allow the world or anyone in the world to demand that we stop praying and studying, to demand that we give up whatever is in the flask that allows us to keep the fire burning. We must be selfish because we will not be able to do any good if we do not first seek God.