Wis. 6:12-16; Ps. 63; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Mt. 25:1-13
“For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence, and whoever for her sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care….” These words taken from the Book of Wisdom speak of our relationship with the Holy Spirit, who is the giver of all wisdom. As Jesus says in the Gospel of John, “But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth” (Jn. 16:13). That is why seeking wisdom is the perfection of prudence. But, what is prudence? Prudence is practical reason. It is the practical application of determining the best course of action. In other words, like my dad used to tell me when I was a child, “Think before you act.”
In our culture, society often denounces prudence, because being prudent demands we avoid certain sinful behaviors or inclinations. As free men and women we like the idea of being free, but how often do we think about what that freedom is really for? Did God make us free so we could do whatever we want, whenever we want, however we want, with whomever we want? Or did God make us free so that we might exercise reason to determine how best to act? Anyone who prays the Our Father knows the answer: It is not my will be done, but Thy will be done. And the Father wills that we live a certain way. Jesus showed us this way by his life, teaching, death, and resurrection.
What does this have to do with today’s Gospel? Well, Jesus teaches us how to live practically. He uses the parable of the ten virgins to make his point. First, five of the virgins are foolish, and five are wise. We can all relate to this situation. There are people in our life who act foolishly and there are those who are wise. The wise virgins pack extra oil for their lamps so when the master arrives they are ready to meet him. The foolish virgins have no extra oil. So, the wise virgins encourage them to go to town and buy extra so they can be ready. The only problem is that the foolish virgins wait until it is too late. And since they waited, they missed the master’s return. In other words, following Jesus is something to be delayed. We have to embrace him while we can.
The parable of the ten virgins is a metaphor for the children of light versus the children of darkness. Those who walk in the light will see God, just as Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” The purity of heart is another way of describing practical reason or prudence. Those who set their sights on God will make the necessary changes in their life to remain in the light, to remain a child of light. As the prophet Isaiah says, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who lived in a land of gloom a light has shone” (Is. 9:1). And that light is the light of Christ.
So, our gospel message today is one of practical reason: be prepared. Jesus encourages us to be ready, to have what we need to welcome him when he returns. No one knows when he will return, but that is all the more reason for us to be prepared. But, how do we prepare for the coming of Jesus?
The first way we prepare for the coming of Jesus is our prayer. How is our prayer life? In a practical sense, prayer is a fervent petition. But, in another sense, prayer is our relationship with Jesus—our relationship with the Divine. What good is it to ask for anything in prayer without first knowing whom we are asking? And so, our prayer should start with getting to know Jesus. How do we get to know Jesus? Primarily through the Gospels. How familiar are we with the gospels? How often do we read the gospels? If we want to know Jesus, the beginning of that knowledge starts with the gospel.
After we learn more about who Jesus is, and we grow in the spiritual life, we want to get closer to him. And Jesus us gave us the sacraments so that we may encounter him in this life. They are a foretaste of what is to come, but for the time being, they sustain us on our Christian journey. Frequent reception of the sacraments helps us to grow in our relationship with Jesus, just as when we grow in our own relationships with others—we spend time with them, converse with them, and embrace them.
Jesus desires that we be prepared for when he comes, and one of the ways we live this out is by preparing for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We know well our own sinfulness, but we should also know well our blessedness. Because whenever we make the effort to confess our sins, to be here on Sunday, to love the Lord with our whole heart, our whole strength, and our whole soul, we are exercising practical reason, we are being prepared. So, may the Lord continue to lead us ever closer to Christ as we keep our lamps burning brightly for him.