A WORN-OUT FAITH
The first generation of Christians were convinced that Jesus, the Risen Lord, would quickly return full of life. It wasn’t to be. Little by little Jesus’ followers had to prepare for a long wait.
It’s not hard to imagine the questions that arose among them. How to keep alive the spirit of the early years? How to stay awake until the Lord comes? How to nourish their faith without letting it go out? One of Jesus’ stories about what happened at a wedding helped them to think about the answer.
Ten young women, friends of the bridegroom, light their lamps and prepare themselves to welcome the spouse. When it gets late, and the bridegroom comes to take the bride with him, they will accompany these two in the entourage that will take them to the spouse’s house, where the wedding banquet will be celebrated.
There’s one detail that the narrator wants to point out right from the start. Among these young women were five who are «sensible» and prepared, and who take with them the oil needed to feed the flame to keep it burning. The other five are «foolish» and not careful, who forget to take oil, running the risk of their lamps going out.
They will discover their mistake all too quickly. The spouse is delayed and doesn’t arrive until midnight. When they hear the cry to welcome him, the sensible ones feed the flame of their lamps with oil, and accompany the spouse until they go into the party with him. The foolish ones don’t know what to do except lament: «Our lamps are going out». Busy about finding oil, they arrive at the banquet when the door is closed. It’s too late.
Many commentators try to search for a secret meaning in the symbol of the oil. Is Jesus speaking about spiritual fervor, about love, about the grace of Baptism…? Maybe it’s too simple to remember his great desire: «I’ve come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already!». Is there anything that could burn better than a faith that is in living contact with Jesus?
Isn’t it foolish to try to keep faith from going out without lighting it with the fire of Jesus? Isn’t it a contradiction to believe ourselves to be Christians without knowing his project or feeling ourselves drawn to his way of living?
We urgently need a new quality in our relationship with him. We need to be careful about all that helps us to center our lives in his person. To not waste energy in what distracts us or leads us away from his Gospel. To light our faith each Sunday, savoring his words and communing with him deep in our being. No one can transform our communities like Jesus.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf