A meditation on the symbolism of “oil” in those lamps of ours, and the grace of wisdom.
There are times when the act of making a sacrifice” is to allow yourself, or even make yourself, take “time” (actual minutes) to do what you will do in eternity! (hopefully). Taking time is so valuable, enriching, life-giving, and, “saving” (as in resuscitation/revival). However, like every faith act, there are no guarantees because we are surrendering to God the outcome of our wishes and desires. It is out of our control as to the answer to our prayers.
Remember St. Paul’s words last weekend? “The Word is uplifted and for this reason we, too, give thanks to God unceasingly, that in receiving the Word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the Word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.”
(1 Thess. 2:13) Yes, the key here is “you who believe.” No, I cannot rely on my own power here. But, oh my, if I can only act and let go. Remember faith is counter to anything in our world. Especially as regard “guaranteed results.”
First, dwell for a moment on the “energy” of wisdom. I define it as “grace with action.” Wisdom is not just something above the eyebrows, it moves us. Often we don’t realize till long after how something within caused us to act in an unexpected, but right, manner. It is not only the quality or state of being a wise person, it is the knowledge of what is true or right coupled with action upon our wisdom for other’s sake. Ponder the following as to what is said about her.
First, “she is readily perceived by those who love her.” Simply said, love is primarily “paying attention with care.” And, second, wisdom is found by those who deliberately ask or seek her. It does take your intention, deliberate focus, for the Holy Spirit to fully engage with us. God’s love for us respects our free will. And, if you notice carefully, “in anticipation” means it takes a lot of “waiting,” but it is expectant, faith-filled waiting on the Lord.
All of this is said in order to “be prepared” on any given day, to be open to the Wisdom of the Spirit, for someone else’s sake. This gift of wisdom is a gift for others, not ourselves. That is why we are inspired with wisdom in the first place.
The oil in the parable of the foolish and wise virgins symbolizes our readiness for God’s grace today, just today. The oil could not be transferred to the foolish virgins because one cannot pass on to another the capability of “readiness.” Grace, wisdom teach us how to be ready. And because we are missionary disciples, sent by God to others, we assume trust, and anticipate that we will be prepared for whomever God sends on our path.The daily tasks necessary to prepare ourselves for doing something with the wisdom we receive through – prayer, acts of forgiveness and generosity, trust in providence. These are comparable to the minor sacrifices and inconveniences of the wise virgins.
None of this “makes sense” until later, sometimes much later as to how you responded to or got through a critical, and personal situation where you trusted that God would come through with you lovingly acting, acting towards others with care, overcoming inconvenience and fear. Be wise through Christ.
Fr. Alex Steinmiller, C.P., is the administrator at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Birmingham, Alabama.