With the Lord unceasingly
Robert Bolt, the British playwright, did justice to Sir Thomas More in an heroic drama about his life, appropriately named A Man for All Seasons. Surely Thomas’ greatest season was when he stood trial for treason against Henry VIII for allegedly denying to the King his claim to be head of the Church of England.
Although he, indeed, held that view, More, as the “King’s good servant,” had been careful to make no public statement on the matter. Like a good lawyer he demanded that the court prove its case against him. Of course, the court intended to condemn him anyhow, proof or no proof.
Once the judgment had been given, St. Thomas More felt free to state his belief. He denied that “a temporal lord could or ought to be head of the spirituality.” Yet he held no grudge against those who had sentenced him to death for this Catholic principle. St. Paul, he reminded the tribunal, had originally persecuted the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen; but Paul had subsequently become a Christian and joined Stephen in the ranks of the martyrs. Now he prayed that he and his judges would share the joys of eternal life: “I verily trust, and shall therefore right heartily pray, that though your lordships have now here on earth been judges of my condemnation, we may yet hereafter in Heaven merrily all meet together to everlasting salvation.”
“… We shall be with the Lord unceasingly. Console one another with this message.” (I Thessalonians, 4: 17-18. Today’s second reading).
-Father Robert F. McNamara
Q344: Why didn’t the five “wise” virgins give extra oil to the five “foolish” virgins? Did you notice that the five “foolish” virgins took no oil with them? How foolish can one be?
Memories are short! “Aw, we don’t have to worry about this hurricane. We’ve lived through a lot of them, and none of them have been as bad as this one is predicted to become. Don’t worry about it.” There are a lot of other stories: “Aw, don’t worry about gas or food. As soon as the storm passes over, we’ll go down to the grocery store and replenish our shelves… There is always a lot of gas and food…” Or, how about this one: “A flood? Here? Not a chance… A tornado hit us? Here? Not a chance…” There is something prophetic about the decades-old Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared.” A lot of people pooh-pooh that motto, believing that they are immune to disaster. They prefer to believe in the magical tooth fairy…
Sometimes we forget one element of today’s gospel story (Matt 25:1-13). That element is that all the virgins fell asleep, not just the foolish ones. However, the wise virgins had still prepared themselves beforehand, by having a good supply of oil ready for their lamps, in case it was needed. Maybe it was an overabundance of caution? Perhaps; but it paid off, because when the time came, they needed that oil to greet the Bridegroom who arrived unexpectedly.
Each one of us has been invited into the Kingdom of God, and each one of us has been warned that the Bridegroom is going to come at a time that we do not know. That “warning” is almost a “plea” to be ready at all times. Because if we are not ready – if our “lamps” are lacking “oil” – it will be too late for us. That metaphor of “oil” refers to the way we do or do not live the virtuous life that God freely empowers us to live. You cannot “borrow” these virtues at the last moment; you must “live” them. These are very sobering words in the gospel, and a reminder that we can never use the excuse that “no one told me.”
KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Following Christ is not just about virginity (CCC #1618); it is about “following” the virtuous life that Jesus led, a life available to and necessary for all Christians. Surely we all can read the “signs of the times” (CCC #1788) and discern whether the life offered and lived by our culture is the real life we are being asked to live through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
As we approach the end of the liturgical year, the readings begin to zero in on the themes of death, judgment, and the final coming of the Lord. We have been waiting two thousand years, and some folks think that he will come within the next few years. Today’s parable reminds us that “we know neither the day nor the hour,” so we have to be prepared for the long haul. In fact, the Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared” is a good summary of the Gospel message. The ten bridesmaids are symbolic of the human race. Some are foolish, so used to instant coffee and microwave dinners that they expect instant salvation as well. Others, the truly wise, know that the bridegroom, The Lord’s, arrival may be delayed and they are prepared to deal with that situation. They know that eventually time and the oil will run out, so they make sure they keep their spiritual backup ready.
Lord Jesus, you promised that you would be with us as we live our lives in union with you. Be with us today as we await your coming. Give us the wisdom to keep our spiritual batteries charged, so that we may be prepared to greet you when you come.