Waiting and watching is a most human and not always peaceful experience for us. We are praying not so much to find, but be found in our relationship with God. We can pray for patience of course, but even more, we pray with delight that we are the “come to”, “come for”, and the “come in” of God’s love. We pray to be ready to be found and not in the fear of being lost.
What is necessary to be found by her is vigilance and patience. “Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed, for he shall find her sitting by his gate.” This is an image of contemplative prayer. Waking up physically at dawn is not yet fully awake until there has been some reflecting upon the goodness of God and God’s creative love and care. Wisdom is the sense or result of such prayerful watching and waiting. Wisdom, like God, seeks to find, seeks to be known, and seeks to bring about a fuller tasting of creation.
The Second Reading does not usually hold thematically to the First Reading and the Gospel which usually form the liturgy’s theme. This reading is meant for the consolation of those who have lost family members and friends. It is taken from the first epistle which we have from the hand of Paul. It predates the writings of the Gospel and holds out comfort to the grieving. It is a wonderful section and timely as it follows the feast of All Souls. We are alive and alert, because we know that we are left, but not left behind. We too will be sought for and found.
The Gospel is a parable about waiting and watching. Five wise and five foolish young women are waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. You might be wondering how the bride is feeling, but that is for another writing, so be patient.
The five foolish young women do not have enough oil to keep their lamps burning and the groom arrives and the “dim-witted” ones ask the “well-oiled” ones for the loan of some of their oil.
This is a Christian Christ-told parable. Why don’t the five who have, give to the five who don’t have? Why doesn’t Jesus say that all are welcome, bright and dim alike. Maybe this parable is meant to scare us all into behaving lest we get caught short.
The groom is obviously the Christ. The young women are the Church, the believers. The oil is faith and all believers have some. The five who do not have enough, what is that about? Faith is a virtue- a habit, a gift- but it is strengthened by its use. It is not enough just to have and not be tended to.
Faith-watching, faith-waiting is active, lively, expressive of the relationship with Jesus. Those who ask for more oil have not been exercising, living with the light of their faith. The reason the five wise women cannot give their oil is that God alone gives faith. I cannot give faith to anybody, only the gift of how I live with faith influencing my actions. The five did not spend the watching-waiting time well and they ran out of oil-time.
While sitting here writing our phone rang and the voice at the other end told me that I could win one hundred dollars just by giving her my name and then call a number she would give me when I heard my name on a local radio station. Sounds good to me, so I gave her the name of one of my brothers in our little community. All he has to do is listen all day from nine to five for the next thirty days and he wins, or we both do; I will take half of course. He has to take his driver’s license down to the station if they call his name for verification, and he wins! The problem of course he knows not the day nor the hour. He just has to keep waiting and listening. I should tell you that he is not a patient man, but for a hundred dollars, he might become quite virtuous all of a sudden.
So we wait, watch, listen, but that actively. We will be found when we live expecting to be found. Waiting involves doing something which increases the oil in the lamps of our hearts and souls. So again, it is not those who just say “Lord, Lord”, but those whose faith is lived brightly in the dark of this world’s ways. As with the man at the wedding feast who did not have a proper wedding garment, the foolish will not be recognized and left out, left behind, because they did not bright their lives or the lives of others with their faith, but left it behind unattended.
Wisdom and faith are worth the wait, but waiting is more than standing around.
“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. In green pastures he gives me rest, he leads me beside waters of peace.” Ps. 23 1,2
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