Oil Lamps

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Today we may not particularly understand the figure of the oil lamps used by the 10 virgins mentioned in the Gospel. We rely so much on electric power for lights and other household equipment, as well as use battery operated flashlights when electric power goes off; and we complain almost immediately when power blackout occurs. In the old days oil lamps were made of clay and only the owner of the lamp would know when the oil needed to be replenished. The lamps were not big enough to hold a big amount of oil; and the time of waiting for the bridegroom was unpredictable.

The five foolish virgins failed to prepare for the unexpected, and they failed badly. They tried to take advantage of the others who had oil, but oil was not enough for them. They missed the moment of their purpose to meet the bridegroom, and they had to be rejected at the door for not being present when he arrived.

Once a parishioner came up to me and complained about the homilies that she heard and the seminars and retreats that she attended. For her the preachers were not as good as she expected. She was looking for some big thing in her life and was expecting to see some things to pop out of her life. In the course of our conversation, I asked her if she liked all the food that her mother cooked. She said no, but she ate them anyway. I also asked her if she liked all the food in the restaurants that she went to. She answered no, but she ate them. It was at that moment that our conversation became lighter. She smiled and got the point that it’s not particularly what we like that will help and nourish us, but what we need physically or spiritually.

Putting oil in our lamps may not always have to be appealing to the senses, for in fact it can be unpleasant at times and can mess up many things that we like, as oiling a lamp can be messy. Oiling our lamps just have to be constant and we have to persevere responsibly. Here are a few of many ways:

– We have to go to Church on Sundays and listen to homilies, but also wake up early and miss our favorite TV shows;

– We have to attend Religious Education or Bible classes, but also miss our games or friends for a couple of hours;

– We need to attend to an ailing relative or visit a sick person, but also have to buy gas or walk under the sun or the rain;

– We need to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but also feel the discomfort of telling our sins to a priest and have to promise to avoid occasions of sin;

– We need to go for retreats or spiritual growth conferences, but also have to keep our mouths shut in order to listen;

– We need to be present to our families to talk and to listen to them, but also postpone other work related activities;

– We need to forgive those who hurt us and those whom we have hurt, but also swallow our pride and be humble enough to accept that we are not perfect;

– and many more. Effects are not instant. They grow through the years, but we cannot afford to wait for a deathbed conversion.

Are our lamps filled with oil? Can we shine as good examples of the faith in the darkness of unbelief, selfishness and indifference in this world? If we can’t, our lamps will go out when we need them, and there will be not enough for anyone who does not put oil in his lamp constantly and perseveringly. Our destiny is not a game of chance, but a personal choice to grow with the Church for God’s glory.

Psalm 23 gives us a beautiful picture of the oil for our lamps for the Lord supplies us with the oil of fulfillment and salvation:

The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. Fresh and green are the pastures he gives me repose. Near restful waters he leads me, to revive my drooping spirit. He guides me along right path…. You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes. My head you have anointed with oil; my cup is overflowing.

The Eucharist is the best oil that fills our lamps, and it will not fail us for the Lord Himself is our oil. Let Him shine brightly in our lives.


Fr. Tito Ayo

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