August 26, 2016*
by Andy Alexander, S.J.
Creighton University Collaborative Ministry Office
click here for photo and information about the writer

Friday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 429

1 Corinthians 1:17-25
Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 10-11
Matthew 25:1-13

Praying Ordinary Time

The foolish ones, in taking their torches, brought no oil along, but the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their torches. ...
The moral is: keep your eyes open, for you know not the day or the hour.   Matthew 25

What's the oil?  What is the "fuel" that keeps our "torches" burning brightly?  What is it that we "run out of," when we are not ready to greet and accompany the Lord to the banquet?  What is it that we need, that we can't afford to have to go run and purchase more of, at the time of greatest need?  What lack of foresight would earn us the frightening name, "foolish"?

Jesus tells a parable that you and I can use to reflect upon our "provisions" for our roles as expectant servants, waiting for any moment when there will be a grace offered, a "presence" experienced, a call made.  He invites us to reflect on what we need to "have" in order to "have what it takes" to respond at the right time, and to respond fully.

When I miss Jesus' coming - miss those opportunities to see him with me in times of brokenness or darkness or ordinary, simple symbols - my flask is usually full of fear rather than oil.  We can't light a flame with fear - only with oil.
It is like my eyes just aren't open.  Or, they only see my stuff.  I don't recognize this moment as an invitation to be a companion with Jesus in compassion, or a servant with Jesus being bread "broken and given," or to be on fire with the Spirit of Jesus in proclaiming liberty to captives.

We can feel consoled to remember that a "provident" God will provide what we ask for, out of the growing desires which God's Word plants in our hearts.  Desire opens our eyes.  Desire fills our hearts with readiness.  Desire can fuel a torch of loving, forgiving, healing, proclaiming, transforming.

All religious experience is prepared for.  One grace builds upon another.  When I ask for what I desire for an upcoming conversation, it is richer.  When I take a deep breath and turn to God in my heart, even momentarily, the choice I make has more potential for being grace-full.  When I reflect upon the depths of the mystery of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, the mystery of death is not frightening but freeing.  When I beg, every day, for the grace to love my spouse, my children, my parents, my friends, my colleagues more self-less-ly, all kinds of new graces flow forth.  When I consciously gather the struggles, conflicts, joys and desires of my week, they prepare for a Sunday celebration so much fuller than just "walking in cold, to fulfill my obligation."  When I open my hands and ask for a growing desire to be servant, to hear the cry of the poor, to let my life reflect the coming of God's reign, then God will provide plenty of oil for a torch that is Light itself.

Dear Lord, thank you for stirring our desires for the oil of awareness, the oil of gratitude, the oil of being placed with you in all things. Keep our torches burning brightly so that we might not miss your coming, your presence, your invitation each and every day.

* This reflection from the archives was written for these readings in 2001.

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