16 Nov Homily Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Deacon Blaine Barclay
The readings today are an early warning system for the Liturgical Season of Advent which is almost upon us. The key phrases are ‘keep watch, stay alert, for your do not know the hour or the time’. Jesus is the Bridegroom, we have been given the task of staying alert for the glad tidings of his arrival. “Look, here is the Bridegroom. Come out to meet Him” says our parable.
This Kingdom parable can be read at 3 different levels, just like Advent itself. At the level of the First coming or advent of the Messiah, the Christ, the need to recognize and welcome Jesus as the Messiah. Secondly, at the level of the Second Coming of Christ, coming to us from the absolute future, both in celebration of the great wedding feast, and in judgement. “I do not know you”. Finally, at the level of our own end, our particular death and judgement. Whichever way Jesus comes to us, the question is the same. ‘Am I ready…are we ready…for his Advent?”
What does it mean to be ready for Jesus? To have enough oil for our lamps, even at midnight, even in a time of darkness. To be ready for the Bridegroom and the Feast? St. Augustine of Hippo in his homily on this text suggests the lamp is the vessel of our hearts. Of course, even the foolish Bridesmaids have lamps, the trouble is their hearts are empty when the Bridegroom comes. Only the wise ones have prepared, are ready with a flask of oil to fill their lamps.
What does the oil represent? With what fuel do we need to fill the vessels of our hearts in order to be ready for the feast? We know that the word for messiah means anointed one, in Greek, Christos or Christ. Our hearts need to be filled with messianic oil of the Holy Spirit, to light our way to the wedding banquet.
Augustine also suggests that this oil is the oil of virtue. And so not something that we can acquire at the last minute, as is the case for our foolish bridesmaids. Even the life of grace, which is pure gift, is infused and acquired over time. Having oil in our lamps is a matter of being prepared over the long haul. A heart radically open to Christ, and to the anointing of his Holy Spirit. A heart made ready by repentance and conversion. The kind of virtues necessary in the pursuit of Wisdom, as in our first reading. Filled with the desire for wisdom, rising early to meet her because she is already sitting at the gate. Above all, to love wisdom, for she is easily discerned by those who love her. More than anything wisdom wants to be understood, and this requires vigilance on our part. The kind of vigilance and readiness that the wise Bridesmaids show in our parable. As the old gospel tune goes. ‘Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning, give me oil in my lamp I pray, give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning, keep me burning till the break of day’.