The Foolish Bridesmaids
Friday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Doug McManaman
Reproduced with Permission

Oil was used to keep lamps burning, and it is the lamp that allows us to make our way through the darkness. It sheds light. The wise ones in this gospel prepare, they store enough oil that will keep their lamps burning when the darkness arrives, but the foolish ones do not prepare. They run out of oil, and so they cannot light their lamps. As a result, they are not a light in the darkness. Rather, they are covered by the darkness

The fire of the lamp refers of course to the fire of the divine love, the oil refers to the anointing of the Holy Spirit—which we receive in Baptism and Confirmation. Consider how many people, after having been anointed with the oil of the sacrament of Confirmation, neglect it and who allow their lamps to dry out. As a result, they are not on fire with the love of Christ, the love of their faith, the love of the Church. They no longer think with the mind of the Church. They think with a secular mind.

It is only through love that we come to really know another human being, and it is only through love that we come to know God intimately. That is why in this gospel, Jesus said that he is going to tell the foolish virgins who had run out of oil: “I do not know you”. For the Jews, to know is to experience. It implies intimacy. Think of the Annunciation when the angel Gabriel revealed to Mary that she would conceive and bear a son. She said: “How can this be, I do not know man”. She meant that she knows not intimacy with a man, she has never experienced sexual union.

And so when Christ says to the foolish at the end of time, “I never knew you”, he is referring to those whose hearts do not burn with love for him, who are not on fire, who have allowed the graces of Confirmation to die out in their lives, and who basically think with the mind of the secular culture.

These are sobering readings, especially the gospel readings from the last few weeks. I think a lot of people believe that heaven is virtually guaranteed, that as long as they avoid becoming a Hitler or a Stalin, they believe they’re probably going to heaven. But this reading and those of the previous Sundays seem to suggest otherwise.

The best thing we can do for others is to allow the fire within us to enlarge and burn so brightly that others may be drawn by the light and the heat, so that they may be inspired to seek the Lord and find him. And if that fire grows within us, we will grow in a longing for those who are lost and we will be moved to pray for them, as St. Monica longed for her son, and prayed for him. Her prayers were finally answered after 30 years, and of course he became one of the greatest doctors of the Church, St. Augustine.

St. Monica, pray for us.