The Oil of the Wise Virgins

William_Blake_-_The_Parable_of_the_Wise_and_Foolish_Virgins

Today at Holy Mass, we read the Parable of the Ten Virgins. They await the bridegroom’s arrival, deep into the night. Then, behold, he comes! But only five of the young ladies have an extra flask of oil, to keep their torches burning.

Here’s a little compendium of links to the homilies I have given about the parable, over the years.

The Ten Virgins at Super Bowl XXII (2020)

The Wise Virgins’ Oil (2018)

The Wise Virgins’ Parable (2017)

The Mass is the Oil (2017) I remember giving this one in the basement social hall at St. Francis, while the workers were laying the new hardwood floor in the church above us.

Where is Time Headed (2012)

In Here, Lord? (2011)

Hamlet + Ten Virgins (2011)

If the necessary oil represents a completed manuscript of Ordained by a Predator, sent to a potential publisher, then yours truly is good. Thank you for praying. 🙂 It’s all in the Lord’s hands now.

 

 

Risks of Love

ten-thousand-dollar-bill-salmon-p-chase

The parable of the talents, which we read at Holy Mass tomorrow. Two points. [Spanish]

1. The investment strategy of the first two servants: risky or conservative?

A “talent” was the annual salary of a skilled worker, $50,000 in today’s money. The master gave the first servant $250,000 to invest; the second got $100,000.

How much time did they have to work with? How long did it take for them to double their money? The parable says that the master took a “long trip abroad.” Maybe a couple years. Probably not seventy years.

I bring up seventy years because: At today’s interest rates, and adjusting for inflation, it would take seventy years to double your money by putting it into a safe savings account. The first and second servants doubled their money much more quickly than that. They took big risks. They could have lost everything their master gave them. He could have returned from his trip to find those first two servants penniless. But he didn’t. Their risks paid off.

Meanwhile the third servant got intimidated by all the big numbers and risk taking. He thought to himself, “I don’t belong with these high rollers.” The master had given him $50,000. Not as much as the first two, but still a lot of money. He played it safe. He protected himself from potential catastrophe. He hid everything he had, in a secret place, away from prying eyes.

In sports, if you have a lead and then just play defense and try to run out the clock, what happens? You almost always lose.

sacredheartPoint 2. At the beginning of the parable, the Lord Jesus said that it explains the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. In other words, He was not talking Wall Street in this parable; it’s not really about money. The talents in the parable represent something else. What do they represent?

What chapter of the Bible is this? Matthew 25. What comes at the end of that chapter? We will read it next Sunday. The separation of the sheep from the goats. The king tells the sheep, “Come inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, because you loved Me when I needed it. You welcomed, fed, clothed, comforted, and healed Me.” They say, “When did we see you, Lord?” He answers: “When you did it for these least brethren of Mine, you did it for Me.”

The cash in the Parable of the Talents represents love and kindness, openness and understanding, patience and gentleness. The first two servants received a lot of “money”—that is, the Lord gave them big, devout hearts. They proceeded to love dangerously with them. They loved without holding back. They risked everything—they risked themselves. They gave themselves over completely to the work of loving God and neighbor. They had faith; they trusted in God. They feared nothing.

Meanwhile, the third servant received a pretty big heart also. He could have used it to love God and his neighbor, but he didn’t bother. He feared potential dire consequences. He did not consider himself an adventuresome person, when it came to caring about anything. “That’s for heroes, and people like that, not me,” he thought to himself. “I just need to make sure that no one gets mad at me. I don’t want to get hurt.”

We cannot serve both God and mammon. We have to choose one. We have to choose God and despise all the pomp and circumstance of this passing world. But we serve God well in the same way that worldly people make a lot of money: by risking everything. By fearlessness. By jumping out into some unknown situation because I believe I have something good to offer that no one else does.

The point of the Parable of the Talents is: No one ever made it to heaven by loving God and neighbor timidly. Half-hearted devotion to Jesus Christ never did anyone any good. God gave us everything, and, as the parable has it, He is a “demanding man.” He expects us to risk ourselves completely for His glory. We owe Him nothing less than that.

What do we imagine the master in the parable did during his long journey abroad? Did he play it safe? Did he go somewhere comfortable, some place he had visited before? Where do we figure he got the $400,000 he gave his servants in the first place?

He obtained his fortune by going on adventures. He traveled in dangerous places, in order to give the world something new and good. His creativity, confidence, and energy provided the servants with something to work with themselves.

We do not have to come up with zeal and love out of nothing. God gives us what we need to work with, in order to do something good—namely, ourselves. We just have to risk ourselves fearlessly, so that the good thing He has begun in us can come to fruition.

God is undying, infinite love. That’s what we believe. That’s what Christ crucified teaches us. If we believe that, then we have no excuse for being afraid to love Him back, and love our neighbors, with everything we have.

The Ten Virgins at Super Bowl XXII

last-judgment

The Lord Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe this, the seventh article of the Christian Creed. The parable of the Ten Virgins, which we will hear at Holy Mass tomorrow, helps us to meditate on this article of faith. In the parable, the arrival of the bridegroom at the wedding represents the second coming of Christ. The groom’s arrival represents the final judgment and the consummation of all things. [Spanish]

The virgins in the parable represent all of us who believe in the Creed. The ceremony of an ancient Palestinian wedding involved a torch-lit procession, leading the groom to the couple’s new home. The parable centers around one item in this procession: the oil needed to make the processional torches burn.

The ten young ladies came to the house, to celebrate the marriage of their friends. All ten looked forward to a delightful feast, a party that would last for days. Maybe the young women had thoughts in their minds like, “I will see young Mr. Eligible and Handsome So-and-so at this party!”

TP_278400_LYTT_DWILLIAMS_1These ten had been chosen to participate in the solemn joy by doing a specific sacred office. They were to illuminate the dark night in front of the bridegroom as he made his final steps to the house. Then the feast could begin.

The bridegroom took his time in coming. Maybe his camel had a bum leg. The virgins waited for hours for word that the groom had reached the edge of town. The young ladies got sleepy and dozed off. It was late. No foolishness in any of this.

Among those dozing ten ladies, however, there were two distinct groups. The five members of the first group had thought ahead. They anticipated what would happen when the word came to go out into the night to meet the groom.

At that moment, with no time to spare, each torch-bearer would have to pour a little flagon of oil into her torch, as someone came down the line with a taper to light all the torches. These torches held only enough oil to burn for a half-hour or so—just long enough to escort the groom from the edge of town to the house.

As the ladies dozed, the first group slept in peace. They had little flagons of oil in their pockets. They were ready. They were wise.

Some of you know how my brother and I got to go to Super Bowl XXII, thirty-three years ago. We were goofy teenagers, to be sure, but not altogether foolish. A business associate of my father had given him two real Super Bowl tickets. My father gave them to us. If my brother and I had flown to San Diego and caught the bus to Jack Murphy Stadium, without any tickets in our pockets, that would have been, as the Lord put it, foolish.

That, however, is basically what the other five young ladies did. They came to the Super Bowl with the right jersey on, with their favorite player’s number, and with a placard that read, “Go, Doug Williams!” or “We love the Hogs!” But they never stopped to ask themselves, “How will we get into the stadium?”

The time to light the torches came, and the five fools only then thought to themselves, “Wait. I guess these things require some kind of fuel?”

Which brings us to the decisive question: In the Lord’s parable, what does the oil for the torches represent?

The Lord Jesus Christ will come again to judge. At that moment, which could come anytime, what must we have? What is the ‘ticket’ that we need, to enter the stadium of heaven, where the Washington Redskins will reign as Super Bowl Champions forever?

Seriously: What will make our torches burn, to welcome Christ when He comes? What is the oil we will need then, to participate in the final procession into the Kingdom of God?

I think the answer is so simple, yet so hard to achieve, that we might make this more complicated than we have to. What each of us needs is: a clear conscience.

When Jesus comes, He needs to find us with hearts fundamentally at peace. Since all of us have sinned, that means the oil is Divine Mercy. The tender love of the Savior’s Heart, living inside mine. That alone gives a sinner peace. And it makes me a just and honest person. It makes me into the kind of companion that can forgive a fellow sinner and start over in peace.

Then we can go in and enjoy the wedding.

Bible Law

[written 3/2/20]

Charles Bosseron Chambers Sacred Heart of Jesus

Be kind to people who need help, for My sake.

That’s a brief summary of the moral law contained in the Holy Bible. The law according to which He will judge us all.

Not really complicated. The Bible is a thick book, with lots of difficult names of people and places. But what it basically tells us to do is: Believe in the triune God, pray to Him, receive His grace, and be genuinely, helpfully kind to everyone around you.

Demanding? Yes. Since the law always applies. The only way to fulfill God’s Law of Kind and Helpful Love is: to stay close to the One who initiated all the kindness in the first place. When it comes to following the law of selfless, divine love, He did it first.

We were nothing. Actually, worse than nothing. We were scrawny little trophies in Satan’s purse. Before that, we were non-beings. Literally, non-beings.

But God visited us in the prison of nothingness. He came to us while we were sick in the hospital of a meaningless life. He clothed us in our nakedness, fed us in our desperate hunger, and gave us cool, refreshing water to drink. We were disoriented strangers in this universe, but He said, “No, no, little ones. You are my children.”

Loving others and helping them is our chance to do like our heavenly Father has done with us.

Shepherds

Christ Good Shepherd

Lord Jesus, the eternal Word of God, shepherds us towards the goal of life. He appoints shepherds from among the sheep of His flock. He Himself shepherds His sheep through the ministry of the sheep He has appointed shepherds.

So, as we hear at Holy Mass today, He vents His most-terrifying wrath against shepherds who fail in their appointed task. Not those who fail through normal human foibles, like we all have, but those who betray their mission through hypocrisy. Through deep inner dishonesty.

Lord Jesus vents His wrath against shepherds who claim religious authority, and who manipulate others by using their authority, but who themselves do not, in fact, love. Who do not love their flock with God’s true love.

Trent
Piazza Duomo, Trento

As you know, I’m getting ready to leave on a little pilgrimage/vacation, to follow the path of the Catholic bishops and theologians who converged on the northern-Italian mountain town of Trent, five centuries ago. They met in order to try to understand better what shepherding the flock required of them.

They converged at the tomb of St. Vigilius, an ancient martyr-bishop who had given his life to evangelize the pagans. Trent served as a mid-point between Rome and Protestant lands.

The assembled shepherds proceeded to clarify certain truths of Christianity. God’s revelation comes to us through the Scriptures and the sacred, apostolic Tradition of the Church. The Lord Jesus has given us seven sacraments, by which He communicates His grace to us. His grace can truly make us holy. The Mass makes His sacrifice on the cross present to us now, and receiving Holy Communion means receiving His body, blood, soul, and divinity. We should venerate the saints, pray for the souls in purgatory, and esteem the consecrated religious life.

The fathers of Trent also tried to reform their own lives, to focus more on their true mission, to shepherd people’s souls.

Much more to come on this.

Gracious God

God gives—graciously, kindly, generously. Because He gives graciously, kindly, and generously, the beautiful cosmos exists, and we exist. He never owed us anything. But He gave us everything anyway—out of kindness.

baptism-holy-card1God gives, even when we betray His kindness. We messed the whole thing up; we made God’s beautiful creation ugly, and made ourselves ugly. But He responded by generously sending His Son to live a beautiful human life of pure generosity. In order to reconcile the human race with the divine generosity, kindness, and graciousness.

Holy Baptism initiates us into the mystery of God’s loving kindness. We become vessels of God’s generous love. We become capable of acts of genuinely divine graciousness.

The holy People of God, called by God to be holy—His Church. Our holiness involves fidelity to God’s law, to be sure. Above all, that means: generosity, kindness, graciousness. That is the Law that God Himself follows; it is the Law that is Himself–unstinting, infinite Love.

Sharing in God’s holiness through the sacraments means sharing in the divine bigness and patience. Sharing in His permanence, His stability, His boundless resources.

God always starts every day with everything at His disposal, ready to give, with no fear of running out of anything. When we stand squarely in His holiness—His infinite graciousness–in the bosom of His Church, then we can start every day that way, too.

No matter what happened yesterday, no matter what got depleted, or run down, or bruised, or harmed—God has the resources to replenish, restore and heal. And we do, too, when we live in God.

Matthew 25

Caravaggio Seven Works of Mercy
Caravaggio, “The Seven Works of Mercy”

“Be kind to people who need help, for My sake.” A brief summary of the law by which God will judge us, according to the Holy Bible.

Not complicated. So what could get in the way? What could keep us from obeying this straightforward law?

Nothing at all—except Me, Myself, and I.

Nothing, except my defensiveness, pettiness, and mood-swings; my tired, hangry, impatient, self-centeredness. Me. my way. Because, if things aren’t done my way, the world collapses!

Nothing could get in the way of me doing simple, easy acts of kindness, except: My self-righteousness. My certainty that it pertains to my competence and vigilance as an Excellent Paragon to correct and improve all the bad people.

Nothing could get in the way, except: I resent the people in need because they remind me of the truth about myself, the truth that I don’t want to acknowledge. That I am a desperate basket-case of dependencies.

How dare you remind me, o person in need, that without the help of Almighty God, and the commonweal, and the people who raised me, and my patient friends and generous allies, and all my advantages in life that I never earned—how dare you remind me that without all this unmerited assistance, I would still be in the fetal position, whimpering?

The thing about God’s Law of Kind and Helpful Love is: He did it first.

We were nothing. Actually, worse than nothing. W were scrawny little trophies in Satan’s purse. Before that, we were non-beings. Literally, non-beings.

But God visited us in the prison of nothingness. He came to us while we were sick in the hospital of a meaningless life. He clothed us in our nakedness, fed us in our desperate hunger, and gave us cool, refreshing water to drink. We were disoriented strangers in this universe, but He said, “No, no, little ones. You are my children.”

Loving others and helping them is our chance to do like our heavenly Father has done with us. It’s easy, if we can just get our cumbersome, little selves out of the way.

Refreshment for the Depleted

standard of ur sheep goats
Sheep and goats on the ancient Sumerian “Standard of Ur”

Hungry, and you gave Me food. Thirsty, and you gave Me drink. A stranger, and you welcomed Me. Naked, and you clothed Me. Sick, imprisoned–and you visited Me. [Spanish.]

In other words: Jesus, in His distressing disguise, presented Himself as a depleted, exhausted, woebegone wastrel. And the righteous gave Him refreshment. They refreshed the suffering Chist–renewed His strength, restored His drooping spirits. They changed a moment of discouragement, even despair, into a new beginning, by a simple act of kindness.

Of whom might we think when we imagine these righteous ones who refreshed the weakened, enfeebled Christ? Our Lady, of course. She refreshed her Son with little motherly kindnesses more times than we can even imagine. And Mary Magdalen, who anointed the Lord’s weary, desert-chapped feet. And St. Veronica, who wiped the blood and sweat from His face as He made His way to Golgatha.

The righteous, the just, the saints: they offer refreshment to us human beings. God knows we need it. This world can start to seem dark and dangerous sometimes. But the saints make it into a hopeful place, a place with a future, a place where we would want our children to grow up. They might do something as simple as asking if you want a glass of cold water. Or something as complex as writing a book that helps us make sense of life. Or something as hidden as praying and fasting for us, without us even knowing about it. But all the saints have this in common: they offer some kind of real refreshment to this hungry, thirsty, tired, depleted world.

St Veronica in St PetersAnd offering refreshment is the distinguishing saintly characteristic because it is the distinctive divine characteristic. Yes, in the beginning God created everything out of nothing, and that is truly awesome. But: that act of creation is not God’s most awe-inspiring accomplishment.

Remember what St. Peter said to the citizens of Jerusalem during the first Easter season: “Turn to God, that your sins may be wiped away! Thus may a season of refreshment be granted you by the Lord.”

What kind of ‘season of refreshment?’ We hear it described at Sunday Mass, in the 23rd Psalm of David: “In verdant pastures, the Lord gives me repose. Before restful waters He leads me. He refreshes my soul.”

The most awe-inspiring thing the Lord does is this: The universe that He made constantly tries to slip back into the darkness and nothingness from which it came. But He always refreshes it, and gives everything new life.

The darkness of sin, of death, of dissolution, of exhaustion, of starvation, depletion, desperation, inertia, depression, addiction, confusion, frustration, disinformation, full-scale conflagration–none of that darkness can overcome the refreshment that the Lamb of God offers the world.

With what does Christ refresh us? With His Blood! His lifeblood, shed for us on the cross. It poured out on Mount Calvary and watered the earth. Then He rose from that very earth, with His lifeblood flowing again through His veins to refresh His own flesh. And He gives us that divine blood and flesh as the constant refreshment that conquers all the evil in us.

Praised be Christ, our King! In return for the refreshment He offers us, let us pledge to Him our loyal service.

Act of Consecration to Christ the King

Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before you. We are yours, and yours we wish to be; but to be more surely united with you, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to your Most Sacred Heart.

Many indeed have never known you; many, too, despising your precepts, have rejected you. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to your Sacred Heart.

Be King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken you, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned you; grant that they may quickly return to their Father’s house, lest they die of wretchedness and hunger.

Be King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbor of truth and the unity of faith, so that soon there may be but one flock and one Shepherd.

Grant, O Lord, to your Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give tranquility of order to all nations; make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: Praise to the divine Heart that wrought our salvation; to it be glory and honor for ever. Amen.

The Good News of the Last Judgment

 

pantocrator

After a long time the master of the servants came back and settled accounts with them. (Matthew 25:19)

Once every three years, we spend three Sundays in November reading the 25th chapter of St. Matthew’s gospel at Holy Mass. Last week we heard the parable of the ten virgins awaiting the bridegroom. This Sunday, the Parable of the Talents. Next Sunday, we’ll read about the separation of the sheep from the goats. [CLICK FOR SPANISH.]

The human soul longs for justice. When particularly grievous evils occur, it oppresses us; it shakes our faith. I think we all know how, two weeks ago today, a man walked into a church in Texas and shot 26 innocent people, for no reason. We might think: How can God stand idly by? How can a good God let such evil occur, and do nothing?

Okay. But how about this question first: Is the Bible true?

About 150 years ago, the truth of the Bible became a hotly debated topic. Is the Bible true, or is evolution true? Is Jesus Christ the only savior, or do all religions lead to heaven? Do we need religion at all, or is it better just to try to be a good person?

thanksgiving-BeverlyHillbilliesDebates on questions like this gave rise to a particular idea of God. According to this idea, God exists, but He does not have anything directly to do with the world. He is “above” it all. “Above” all human arguments about religion; “above” all disagreements about right and wrong; “above” all the suffering in the world. It’s an idea of God that supposedly resolves all religious controversies and allows people to have Thanksgiving dinners without family bickering.

But: If we have this idea of an above-it-all God, when we think of all the evil and injustice on earth, we are left to wonder: How can God stand aloof and do nothing?

Now, we Catholics are not fundamentalists. We see clearly that the collection of ancient books called the Holy Bible contains reading material that we cannot understand without the help of careful reflection and good teachers. No one who has ever sat down and actually tried to read the book of Revelation thinks that biblical fundamentalism works.

That said, we Catholics do not and cannot accept the idea of God being “above it all.” Because that idea contradicts what Sacred Scripture clearly reveals. God is not “above” the fray. God does not stand idly by. To the contrary, we solemnly affirm these two things about God.

  1. God Himself has embraced the bitter depths of human suffering and death. Twenty-six innocent people died bloody deaths, in church, two weeks ago today. Almighty God also died a bloody death as an innocent person, in Jerusalem, in AD 33. A lot of people still mourn down in Texas. Like our Blessed Mother mourned—and she mourns with them.
  2. This same God Who died will, in the end, judge everyone with perfect justice. All crimes will receive their due punishment from the divine Judge.

Now, we do not usually think of the doctrine of hell as something that makes our Catholic religion appealing to un-churched people. But it seems to me that the full Catholic teaching about the Final Judgment is precisely what the un-churched world needs right now.

The human soul longs for justice. The idea that evil would go unpunished—we simply cannot tolerate that. Some people, thinking they make Christianity more attractive by doing so, try to present Jesus Christ as some kind of super-nice person. But He is not. He is a demanding person. He is the jealous God of Israel. He does not tolerate evil–at least not for long. The righteous holiness of Jesus can and should terrify everyone.

scales_of_justiceChrist is not an “idea” of God. He is a real Person. The Person Who will, as the man that He is, stand in judgment. His eyes penetrate to the level of absolute truth. No injustice, no matter how small or big; no act of physical or emotional violence; no exploitation or abuse escapes His gaze. He reckons it all.

What happened in Texas did not happen in a meaningless universe with a powerless and aloof God standing far away. It happened under the all-seeing eyes of Jesus Christ. Justice will be done. Bad people don’t die, and then it’s all over. No, bad people who don’t repent die, and then they go to hell.

Which hopefully reminds me that the bad person I really need to worry about is myself. And that makes me love Jesus not so much for the Final Judgment as for the cross. On the cross, the terrifyingly righteous Judge made it possible for me to find mercy at the final reckoning. He made it so that even someone like Devin Kelley could find mercy, or Osama bin Laden, or any of the famous evil people of history. On the cross, God Himself paid the price of justice for all human sin. He did it as a human being. He joined Himself to all the suffering of the innocent, in order to redeem even the guilty.

The revelation of the Final Judgment truly comes as good news, as consolation and peace—compared to the prospect of a meaningless world in which evil never gets adequately punished. And we can face the Final Judgment without fear, when Christ crucified is the love of our lives.

The Wise Virgins Parable

William_Blake_-_The_Parable_of_the_Wise_and_Foolish_Virgins.jpg
William Blake, Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins

The wise virgins waited faithfully for the bridegroom to arrive. Everyone knew the groom would come; they just didn’t know when. In those days, even well-meaning bridegrooms could get delayed. The camel might go lame. Or a sudden rain might wash out a road entirely. Or enemy troops might take a whole swath of territory, making it impassable to you, so you had to go way around. [Click HERE for Spanish.]

So the virgins, not to mention all the other wedding guests, had to wait. But they didn’t mind, because the groom’s arrival would mean so much joy. The bridegroom was coming to consummate something wonderfully beautiful–to open a new chapter of life for the family, to give a new future to the bride. The wedding feast brought immense happiness to everyone, because it showed God’s faithfulness and power. A wedding meant that time itself is pregnant with a future, not sterile and dying.

And there’s more–more cause for joy at a wedding. We know that God Himself, having taken flesh, has become the devoted Bridegroom of the human race. The fathers of the Second Vatican Council listed the images of human salvation. Here’s the final image on the list:

The Church is the spotless spouse of the spotless lamb… Christ loved His Church and delivered Himself up for Her. He unites the Church to Himself by an unbreakable covenant, subjecting Her to Himself in love and fidelity. The life of the Church is hidden with Christ in God until we appear in glory with the Bridegroom.

So the wise virgins waited patiently for the tall, dark, and handsome gentleman. The bridegroom in the parable represents the divine Bridegroom, Jesus Himself. He is our champion and our beloved, our hero Who, by His humble obedience to the will of the Father, has conquered death and every evil. He will come again in glory, and He will judge all things, setting all things to rights. Then He will reign forever over a kingdom of unimaginable, peaceful, splendid blessedness.

He will come. We just don’t know when. The virgins in the parable had to wait longer than expected, because, as we read: “The bridegroom was long delayed.”

Long delayed. Maybe 2,000 years? People might think: If Christ really intended to return in glory, wouldn’t He have done it by now? He must have been a crazy lunatic, rather than the real Messiah! 2,000 years is too long to wait.

torahscrollBut we don’t know from ‘long,’ really. Two thousand years may seem long to us, but not to God. As St. Peter put it, “To the Lord a thousand years are like a passing day.” Our perspective on the enormity of time is patethically limited. Two little millennia? Compared to the Pleistocene Age? The Ice Age lasted over 2.5 million years. Christ could wait another 200,000 years, or 200,000,000 years to come back, and it wouldn’t make Him any more or less omniscient and omnipotent than He is.

The whole point of the parable is: it’s not our job to know when the Lord will come again; it’s our job to be ready when He does come.

Which brings us back to the wise virgins. They were ready when the bridegrooom came, as opposed to the foolish ones. The foolish virgins had foolishly run off to go shopping at midnight. But the wise virgins were waiting patiently, so they stood ready when the unexpected hour arrived.

What distinguished the wise virgins from the foolish? The wise ones had flasks of oil with them. So the $10,000 question is: What do these flasks of oil in the parable represent?

There were five flasks. Five wise virgins, five flasks. So maybe the flasks represent the books of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. Torah–which means… Law. Or teaching, guidance, fatherly instruction. Or: Divine Wisdom.

These virgins did not have wisdom in the worldly sense. They happily waited deep into the night, even though they had no idea when the bridegroom would arrive. Worldly virgins would long since have gone off to play field hockey, or watch Dancing with the Stars, or get their hair done. But the wise virgins of the parable chose to spend their long evening waiting patiently by the door.

They possessed a non-worldly kind of wisdom, a supernatural wisdom. They grasped the ultimate goal of history; they had a share in the mind of God Himself. They held fast in faith to the certainty that the bridegroom would come. They did not doubt. They never wavered in their eagerness to meet Him. They persevered in their attentive vigil, even deep into the darkness of night.

They had the wisdom of true Christian faith. While they waited, they could not see the feast that had been prepared for the wedding guests. But they held on to the promise of good things yet to come. The gift of divine wisdom gave them a little taste of the delights that await us in heaven. They awaited the surpassing glory of God being all in all.