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ONLY GOOD WORKS WILL GET US TO HEAVEN

Father Francis's picture
Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Mt. 25:1-13

Jesus wants everyone to get to Heaven. So He told a parable of what we must do if we want to be there ourselves. It was about ten bridesmaids who were invited to a wedding which was held at night. It was their task to accompany the bridegroom to the house of the bride and take her to the wedding.

The ten bridesmaids waited for the arrival of bridegroom. Jesus clearly intended to describe an element of watching and waiting which seems to be a fact of life for most of us. Five of them were foolish because they took their lamps but no extra oil while the wise had flasks of oil and their lamps.

Seemingly all would have gone well for the ten bridesmaids if the bridegroom had come when expected. But he was late. All ten grew weary of waiting and fell asleep. Suddenly there is a cry of warning that he had arrived. Immediately they trimmed their lamps. Five realised that they did not have enough oil and asked the others if they could have some of theirs. The wise replied, “There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy for yourselves."

Some reading this passage might think they were selfish but this misses the point Jesus is trying to make - that this oil is not something that can be borrowed or loaned. Jesus is indicating that at certain moments in life, in times of crisis, we are on our own and no one can help us. For example at a certain moment we may long to borrow some strength of another person, but it is impossible. In such an hour we will have to cope with whatever we have.

So it was with these five foolish maidens. Their oil is gone and to their dismay they discovered their need and they are in a panic to find more. And while they were away, the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast and the door was shut.
Afterwards the other maidens arrived saying, “Lord, Lord, open the door to us.” But he replied, “I tell you solemnly, I do not know you.” Jesus concludes, “So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour."

How disappointed the five foolish bridesmaids were! But with these revealing words from the Lord we can now discover what the oil signifies. Obviously, it was the lack of an adequate supply which caused these foolish maidens a problem. They did, of course, have some oil when they began but it was not enough. The oil is a symbol of repentance and good works. It is this that keeps the lamp of our faith commitment burning brightly. The oil that runs out, causing that spark of faith within us to grow dim, points to our neglect of good works during our lifetime; works which we should have performed and did not.

The wise, however, have an extra reservoir of oil which continually feeds the flame of life, never letting it be extinguished in darkness, helping them through every hour of stress, of pressure or disaster, keeping them firm and steady in the midst of the buffeting pressures of life.

If we have not led good lives it will do no good at the end of our lives to ask for oil from another person. That cannot be done. We cannot take the good works of others to help us to get to Heaven. We must perform those works ourselves. Others’ good works are marked 'Non-transferable' and cannot be shared.

Lord Jesus, with Your help may we lead lives full of good works, keeping our lamps burning brightly, so that when You call us we will be ready and admitted to the wedding feast of Heaven.

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