And I thought the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity was hard to understand. Grasping it seems less of a challenge by times than penetrating the enigma of the price at the pump! Yet, the fuel is necessary for the vehicle to move, so there is little choice but to pay what it costs.
Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 25:1-13) made reference to another type of “fuel”. It is one whose price is far more stable than our wildly fluctuating gas prices, - the cost is always the same, in fact - but it is expensive nonetheless.
|An oil lamp, similar to the type found in the early Christian catacombs.
Jesus tells a parable that uses the image of oil, not for transportation but for light. He tells the now familiar parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom. So that they will see and recognize his presence, they have with them lamps whose flame is fuelled by oil. The wise have oil in sufficient supply, the foolish ones have only a limited quantity. Needing to run off and buy more oil, the foolish ones miss out on greeting the bridegroom upon his arrival. The point Jesus is teaching is that his return will happen, though we know not when. Therefore, we must be ready now and always to welcome him by having enough oil to fuel the light by which we shall see, recognize and welcome him.
The flame of the lamp stands for faith. By faith, we see. Such faith needs to be “fuelled” by the oil of prayer, study of the Word of God, celebration of the sacraments and works of charity. These we keep in “ready and sufficient supply” when we practice them daily. This leads us to the cost of such oil.
The cost is that of self-sacrifice; the price paid is the act by which we surrender all self-reliance and choose to rely solely upon the wisdom, love and providence of God. This price never changes. It remains always the indispensable condition for authentic prayer, obedience to the Word of God, reception of sacramental grace, and genuine acts of Christian love. And it is expensive, since it is the gift of one’s entire self to God and to others. Yet, we willingly and gladly pay the price, because it is only by means of such “oil” that the flame of faith burns brightly and enables us to see and welcome the presence of God in our midst.