As some of you may know, my wife, Melanie, and I host home game tailgate parties for our daughter’s MSU Band section. Hosting these parties places a premium on preparation. Hauling and setting up the canopies, tables, and chairs has to be done early enough and for the right amount of people; food and drinks have to be prepared and kept hot or cold. Afterwards, everything happens in reverse to put things away and get ready for the next game. All this requires good planning, timing, and preparation.
To me, today’s Gospel message is all about being prepared. Interlaced with the cardinal virtues: prudence, fortitude, temperance, and justice we see how preparation is lived-out in the Gospel, in our faith, and in our daily lives.
While all the virgins in the Gospel parable were prepared, only the wise ones prepared for the long haul. Blessed with the virtue of prudence, they anticipate the bridegroom’s possible delay and take the correct action to bring enough oil. The foolish ones half-heartedly prepared expecting the imminent return of the bridegroom. They had not considered the correct amount of oil to bring in case of a delay. As with the wise virgins, we too, should pray for and discern correct decisions and actions to be taken in our lives.
Blessed with the virtue of fortitude, the wise virgins remained steadfast and hopeful of the bridegroom’s return, no matter how long it took. Contrast this with the foolish virgins and even the early disciples of Christ soon after his ascension into heaven. Jesus, the bridegroom, was, and still is, delayed. Many disciples lost their faith as it is unfortunately true today. They grew impatient and lacked fortitude, or perseverance. St. Matthew tells them, and us today, to remain awake and vigilant at all times for our Lord’s return because we know neither the day nor the hour. The apostles understood that Jesus’ imminent return meant they must busy themselves with God’s work. They lived life to the fullest, persevering as if every day were their last. We, too, should view every day as a GIFT and use it to glorify God.
Blessed with the virtue of temperance, the wise virgins brought extra flasks of oil for themselves to rekindle their lamp flame. Rather than all of them running out of oil, and no one getting in to the wedding feast, they told the foolish virgins to go and buy more oil from the merchants. We too should find balance in our ways of consuming goods and in our conduct with others.
Blessed with the virtue of justice, the bridegroom and each group of virgins receive what they are rightly due. The bridegroom welcomes virtuous disciples, the wise virgins unite with the bridegroom, and the foolish virgins deserve their just consequences. May we seek God’s justice in all things.
The virgins’ oil is analogous to our faith. Foolish virgins are those lacking faith, lacking the light of Christ in their lives. When we are baptized, our lamps are lit. We are children of God. If we never practice our faith, it is like running out of oil. To me, the merchants are seen here as a type of the Holy Spirit, a source to replenish their faith or oil in the lamps. They can also be seen as our God-parents and Sponsors keeping and growing the light of faith within us. The wise virgins are filled with faith and are prepared to meet the bridegroom.
When we’re doing God’s work, proclaiming the Gospel, fulfilling the spiritual and corporal works of mercy to our needy neighbors, our lamp shines forth abundantly in our lives. We can better see our path to Christ. When we maintain strength in our faith and a state of grace in our lives, we become the virtuous ones humbly seeking our union with the bridegroom.
Our oil lamps and spare flasks are full of the light of faith when we regularly worship together, read Scripture, and receive the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist. We will never walk and be lost in the dark. How do you evaluate whether your lamp and spare flasks are full of oil so that you are prepared? Or what else is there to do?
During this time of world uncertainty and throughout the upcoming Season of Advent, may we prepare, so to speak, our tailgate faith-life events and get things in order. May we prepare in blessed anticipation, with vigilance and hope, for the second coming of Jesus Christ and for the glory of God.