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Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

1 Thess. 4:9-11 & MT. 25:1-13

The spiritual lives of so many young, and not so young, people is in a pitiful state. More and more are living together without marrying: in the Bible this is known as committing the sin of fornication.

But try telling that to most people today who say, 'That may have been true for our parents and grandparents; if they wanted to believe that, let them, but it is not so for us. We are living in the 21st century, not the Dark Ages, in an enlightened world.' But we have the truth from God in today’s first reading: “He wants you to keep away from fornication.”

Sex was created by God for both the mutual satisfaction of a couple and their procreation of children within marriage. It is intended to be the most intimate expression possible of the love between two people who have committed themselves before God to living their lives together and helping each other to Heaven. So in marriage it is good and beautiful, but when used outside the context of marriage it is lustful and selfish, and it is not love because it earns God's disapproval.

There are certain things in life that cannot be borrowed. In today's Gospel Jesus tells us a story about five bridesmaids who realised this. Along with five other young women it was their task to meet the bridegroom and escort him to the wedding. Since the celebration was at night each carried a lamp. The groom delayed and did not arrive until midnight. By that time their lamps were running low on fuel.

The five sensible bridesmaids had allowed for just such an emergency and brought along an extra supply of oil. The foolish five had not. They tried to solve their problem by borrowing from the others but their request was turned down. That refusal seems selfish and uncaring, but it tells us a truth about life.

There are times when a crisis comes and our needs are urgent that we have to depend on our own resources. Life allows us to borrow from one another in minor affairs but in the great moments, when we face the most important issues, we have only what we have brought with us. We receive many things from our parents, from our family and friends. But some of life's most important things cannot be borrowed. We have to earn them or build them ourselves. This truth makes us individually responsible for the quality of our own lives.

In the same way we must take responsibility for building up our spiritual resources. Like the wise bridesmaids we know where the supply is to be found. Daily prayer, hearing Mass, receiving the sacraments - these are the oil we need for our lamps, but we must go and obtain it for ourselves.

So you can say in one sense that we are profoundly alone. No one can get inside my body and live my life for me. I must do that for myself. When the time comes for me to die, no one can take my place. No one can even go with me. I must make that final journey by myself. In crucial moments, life requires us to stand alone.

Lord Jesus, make us vigilant and attentive to Your voice that we may heed Your call at all times. May we find joy in your presence and delight in doing your will.

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