Resplendent and unfading is wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire; whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed, for he shall find her sitting by his gate. For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence, and whoever for her sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care; because she makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her, and graciously appears to them in the ways, and meets them with all solicitude.
1) O God, you are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water. (Refrain:)
2) Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary to see your power and your glory,
for your kindness is a greater good than life; my lips shall glorify you. (Refrain:)
3) Thus will I bless you while I live; lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied, and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you. (Refrain:)
4) I will remember you upon my couch, and through the night-watches I will meditate on you:
You are my help, and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy. (Refrain:)
We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep. Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, console one another with these words.
Jesus told his disciples this parable: "The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise ones replied, 'No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.' While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, 'Lord, Lord, open the door for us!' But he said in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.' Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour."
(Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Copyright 1970, 1997, 1998 Contraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.
The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission of ICEL.)
- The story is told of a preacher at a military prep school for young men who ended his sermon on this Gospel text with a rhetorical question to his students: "Young men, I ask you, where would you rather be? Here in the light, at the feast for the bridegroom or out there in the dark with a group of foolish young girls?" Without a moment's hesitation, the young men responded: "Out in the dark with the foolish young girls, sir!" (1)
"If we look at this parable with western eyes, it may seem an unnatural and a 'made-up' story. But, in point of fact, this parable tells a story which could have happened at any time in a Palestinian village and which could still happen today.
"A wedding was a great occasion. The whole village turned out to accompany the couple to their new home, and they went by the longest possible road, in order that they might receive the glad good wishes of as many as possible. 'Everyone,' runs the Jewish saying, 'from six to sixty will follow the marriage drum.' The Rabbis agreed that a man might even abandon the study of the law to share in the joy of a wedding feast.
"The point of this story lies in a Jewish custom which is very different from anything we know. When a couple married, they did not go away for a honeymoon; they stayed at home; for a week they kept open house; they were treated, and even addressed, as prince and princess; it was the most joyous week in all their lives. To the festivities of that week their chosen friends were admitted; and it was not only the marriage ceremony, it was also that joyous week that follows which the foolish virgins missed, because they were unprepared.
"The story of how they missed it all is perfectly true to life. One author tells of what he himself saw in Palestine. 'When we were approaching the gates of a Galilaean town,' he writes, 'I caught a sight of ten maidens gaily clad and playing some kind of musical instrument, as they danced along the road in front of our car. When I asked what they were doing, the interpreter told me that they were going to keep the bride company till her bridegroom arrived. I asked him if there was any chance of seeing the wedding, but he shook his head, saying in effect: "It might be tonight, or tomorrow night, or a week from now; nobody ever knows for certain." Then he went on to explain that one of the great things to do at a middle-class wedding in Palestine was to catch the bridal party napping. So the bridegroom comes unexpectedly, and sometimes in the middle of the night. It is true that he is required to send a man along the street to shout: "Behold! the bridegroom is coming!" but that may happen at any time. So the bridal party has to be ready to go out into the street at any time to meet him, whenever he chooses to come....Other important points to note are that no one is allowed on the streets after dark without a lighted lamp, and also that, when the bridegroom has once arrived and the door has been shut, late-comers to the ceremony are not admitted.' Therein is the whole drama of Jesus' parable re-enacted in the twentieth century." (2)
So now that we know a bit more about the background of the parable, there is still one question that persists: why couldn't the wise virgins give some of their oil to the foolish ones? A few weeks ago we heard the parable of the wedding feast where those who were invited did not come. So the host sent out his servants to bring in anyone they met from the streets. But one of those guests chose not to wear the proper wedding garment. And that wedding garment represented the qualities of a Christian life with which we should all be clothed: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness and, most of all, love.
It is the same in this parable: at the end of everyone's life, they cannot borrow a relationship with God from someone else who already has one; they must have possessed it for themselves while they were still alive. And so will it be at our last judgment. On the last day, we cannot borrow a Christian life from someone else; we must already be clothed with it. We cannot always be living on the spiritual capital which others have accumulated. There are certain things which we must earn or acquire for ourselves, for we cannot borrow them from others. The following story reveals how one family clothed themselves with kindness and lit up the lives of others:
- The day was Thankful Thursday, our "designated day" of service. It's a weekly tradition that my two little girls and I began some years ago. Thursday has become our day to go out in the world and make a positive contribution. On this particular Thursday, we had no idea exactly what we were going to do, but we knew that something would present itself.
Driving along a busy Houston road, praying for guidance in our quest to fulfill our weekly Act of Kindness, the noon hour appropriately triggered hunger pangs in my two little ones. And they wasted no time in letting me know, chanting, "McDonald's, McDonald's, McDonald's". I relented and began searching earnestly for the nearest McDonald's. Suddenly I realized that almost every intersection I passed through was occupied by a panhandler. And then it hit me! If my two little ones were hungry, then all these panhandlers must be hungry, too. Perfect! Our Act of Kindness had presented itself. We were going to buy lunch for the panhandlers.
After finding a McDonald's and ordering two Happy Meals for my girls, I ordered an additional 15 lunches and we set out to deliver them. It was exhilarating. We would pull alongside a panhandler, make a contribution, and tell him or her that we hoped things got better. Then we'd say, "Oh, by the way.., here's lunch." And then we would varoom off to the next intersection.
It was the best way to give. There wasn't enough time for us to introduce ourselves or explain what we were going to do, nor was there time for them to say anything back to us. The Act of Kindness was anonymous and empowering for each of us, and we loved what we saw in the rear view mirror: a surprised and delighted person holding up his lunch bag and just looking at us as we drove off. It was wonderful!
We had come to the end of our "route" and there was a small woman standing there, asking for change. We handed her our final contribution and lunch bag, and then immediately made a U-turn to head back in the opposite direction for home. Unfortunately, the light caught us again and we were stopped at the same intersection where this little woman stood.
She made her way to our car, so I put the window down just as she started to speak. "No one has ever done anything like this for me before," she said with amazement. I replied, "Well, I'm glad that we were the first. So, when do you think you'll eat your lunch?" She just looked at me with her huge, tired brown eyes and said, "Oh honey, I'm not going to eat this lunch." I was confused, but before I could say anything, she continued. "You see, I have a little girl of my own at home and she just loves McDonald's, but I can never buy it for her because I just don't have the money. But you know what ... tonight she is going to have McDonald's!"
So many times I had questioned whether our Acts of Kindness were too small or insignificant to really effect change. Yet in that moment, I recognized the truth of Mother Teresa's words: ''We cannot do great things--only small things with great love." (3)
I think if I asked any of you the question whether or not you felt this mother would be prepared to greet the Lord when he comes, your answer would be a resounding "yes". She was not only keeping the light of love alive in her heart by her acts of kindness but also giving an example to her children of what love is all about. And that light shone brightly in the lives of several others that day also.
So as we rapidly approach the season of Advent, we need to ask ourselves if our lights will be burning brightly when he comes. Will there be enough oil in the form of acts of kindness, forgiveness and love to prevent them from going out? And despite what our young military men said about staying out in the dark, we really don't want to get caught in that situation. Not for eternity, anyway. And in order to avoid that situation, we need to do what St. Augustine has pointed out so well: "Watch with the heart, watch with faith, watch with love, watch with charity, watch with good works [...]; make ready the lamps, make sure they do not go out [...] then shall the Bridegroom enfold you in the embrace of his love and bring you into his banquet room, where your lamp can never be extinguished" (Sermon 43).
1. Submitted by Margaret Ann Lowe to the Sermonshop discussion group. Comments may be sent to her at email@example.com .
2. From The Gospel of Matthew, copyright 1975 by William Barclay. Reprinted with permission from St. Andrew Press, Edinburgh, Scotland.
3. No Small Act of Kindness, copyright 1996 by Donna Wick. Reprinted from Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul, pp. 198-200, copyright 1996 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Jennifer Read Hawthorne and Marci Shimoff. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL.
(Copyright 2014 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for use, in whole or in part, in oral presentations. For permission to use in writing, please contact the human intermediary at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Lord Jesus, you have taught us to be watchful and ready for your coming. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, you are the God of the living and have shown us the way to eternal life. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you will judge each of us according to our deeds. Lord, have mercy.
Celebrant: Our Lord has told us that whatever we ask the Father in his name will be granted to us. Therefore, confident in our faith that God will hear us, we bring our prayers and petitions to the Father.
Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Lord, lead us to life".
That the leaders of the Church will help to prepare us for the Lord's coming, we pray to the Lord.
That the leaders of the nations of the world will serve their people wisely, we pray to the Lord.
That hospital chaplains, hospice workers and all those who care for the sick and dying may be a source of hope and comfort to those in their care, we pray to the Lord.
That through our caring concern, the light of Christ may shine through the darkness in the lives of our friends, relatives and neighbors, we pray to the Lord.
That all of our brothers and sisters will be treated as our equals in the site of God regardless of their race, color, nationality or religion, we pray to the Lord.
That all of those who have contracted the Corona virus will be healed, that those who have died will be welcomed into the loving arms of their Savior who suffered for them and that their grieving families will find strength in their faith, we pray to the Lord.
For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.
Celebrant:Merciful Father, your Son has taught us to be prepared for his second coming in glory. Grant us the grace of your Spirit to always keep the light of love burning in our hearts so that we may go out to greet him when he comes. And we ask this through Christ, your Son and our Lord.