It seems that this week I, and those around me, have been challenged to make tough decisions and take interpersonal risks. (Just how do we live those Ignatian Values in the workplace anyway?) These may be easy and welcome opportunities for some, but for most of us it is difficult or at least unpleasant and we would rather avoid them. We may face real or imagined opposition, be unsure about the “right” thing to do, or just give ourselves over to confusion or apathy in the face of the strong will of another or the nagging voice of our own fears.
During this week I have observed in myself and others how much easier it is to take a risk when one hears stories of how others have taken risks…. It is very empowering and has a ripple effect. Family systems theorists call it “differentiation”… the ability to both be an individual, managing one’s own emotional landscape, AND stay connected and in relationship with others. When one family member does this, it strengthens the entire family, and creates an environment that supports others in their maturing and differentiating… figuring out who I am as individual AND as a member of this family/community.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he writes about the wisdom of the world (foolishness in God’s eyes) and the wisdom of God (foolishness in the eyes of the world). Who can pray “The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord” in the battlefields of Afghanistan or the poverty of third world countries? Who would buy a house today without 40 pages of small print? Who would enter into a financial agreement without a very detailed contract spelling out the terms? Who would bring an extra flask of oil for a daytime wedding? Only a fool, in the eyes of the world. We need much of the worldly wisdom for the practicalities of life, but it is of no use in relationships and matter of the heart.
I have always heard today’s gospel, one of several parables at the end of Matthew’s work, as a reference to the “final judgment”, but I was deeply inspired by Robert Farrar Capon’s exegesis (See The Parables of Judgment for a very rich explanation of this wonderful parable). At first read, it seems the foolish virgins are the ones who trust, without all the neurotic planning and arrangements of the others. But who is ready when the Bridegroom comes? Capon suggests it is only the wise virgins who have the flasks of oil, who “have the faith that will get them through their lives in solid contact with the presently unseeable and unknowable Bridegroom.” They are the ones who stand in readiness.
Standing in readiness is not about having my “house in order” when I die. It is about doing a life trusting in God, knowing that God has loved me into existence and that I am/we are God’s own. “If (God) has already done it all for me already, why shouldn’t I live as if I trusted (God)?” (Capon). I stand in readiness, trusting in God, ready to act, when the unexpected hits…. the loss of employment or accidental death of a family member, a devastating addiction or painful divorce, a raging flood in our community, or pettiness and negativity in the workplace. Why shouldn’t we live as if we trusted in God?
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