“The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves'” (Mt 25: 8-9).
The above verse comes in the midst of Jesus’ Parable of the Ten Virgins. The bridegroom has been delayed in his coming so the virgins fall asleep. When they awake, five are prepared with oil for their lamps and five are not. From the first reading of this verse, we can be struck by the unwillingness of the wise not wanting to share their oil with the foolish.
The key to the lanterns being full or empty of oil had to do with the effort or lack thereof regarding those involved. All have been invited to the wedding feast, some are prepared and some are not. The oil in the parable may represent the invitation to relationship and discipleship with Jesus.
We cannot build a relationship with Jesus for others nor can others build a relationship with Jesus for us. No matter how full our lamps are, no matter how much of a blessing we find in our relationship with Jesus and our faith community, and no matter how we desire Jesus to have a relationship with our family members, friends, and colleagues, we cannot build that relationship for them. We cannot share our oil with them.
Also, if we do not have a relationship, or are resisting going deeper in discipleship, and we see others experiencing the joy, fulfillment, and fruits of a relationship with Jesus, and would like to have what others have, in the same vein, they can’t give us their relationship either. They cannot give us their oil. We need to be open to the invitation of the bridegroom, we need to be willing to develop a relationship, to do our part. Jesus knocks on our door, but if we do not open it and let him in, he will not impose upon our free will.
Two examples may help to bring the point home. In Acts 8:9-24 there is the account of Simon the magician and in Acts 3:6 there is an example from Simon Peter. Simon the magician witnesses the works of the Holy Spirit moving through Philip, Peter, and John. He offers Peter money to be able to do what they did and Peter strongly rebukes Simon. Money can’t buy love, nor can it buy the fruits of the Spirit experienced by those who have developed an intimate relationship with Jesus. Regarding Simon Peter, in the account from Acts 3:6, Peter comes upon a crippled beggar and states that he has neither gold nor silver, but what he did have he would give him: “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, [rise and] walk.” The man was healed and walked.
Simon the magician’s lamp was empty, because he spent years building himself up, putting himself first, and saw God’s grace as a means for his own self-aggrandizement. Simon Peter’s lamp had been filled with oil from having learned at the Master’s feet, having gone with him through the crossroads, the storms, his own failures, betrayals and humility, and repentance, so to be empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and willing to give what he had received to others.
The bridegroom has invited us to participate in the wedding, the union of Jesus and his Church. The time of his return is not yet, but we need to be prepared. May we resist sloth and self-interest, and be willing to fill our lamps by being about the work of developing our relationship with Jesus and in the words of Mary, doing what he tells us!
We can’t fill other’s lamps, but we can invite, pray for, and model for others how to fill their own. We can do this by being present to those in our realm of influence where they are, assist them in their need, share our faith, offer to pray with and for them, invite them to fellowship, study, and worship, be a living witness, and offer the same invitation we have received to fill our lamps to be ready for the bridegroom’s return.
Photo: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (cf. Psalm 119:105).