Sunday Reflection | The Oil of Grace and Charity - Saint John's Seminary
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Sunday Reflection | The Oil of Grace and Charity

November 11, 2023

The foolish ones said to the wise,
'Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.'

As a child, I thought it selfish of the wise virgins not to share their oil with those who needed it. This parable, however, is not about sharing oil. It’s about living love. In this Sunday’s Gospel of the wise and foolish virgins, the lamp-oil is not something that can be given away like a book or a phone or an umbrella. It is something proper to the individual, like the grace of God in the soul, charity in the heart, or how the person stands before God. The oil is my relationship with God. It is how I stand before the Lord. It is who I am. The point of the parable is: when the Bridegroom comes, will I be ready to greet Him with lamp burning brightly?

To keep this lamp burning brightly for the Day of the Lord, the oxygen and fuel of love of God and love of neighbor are necessary. These are two sides of the one coin that is charity. The flame of divine charity makes us saints and prepares us to go out and meet Christ the Bridegroom.

We are made for love. We are made to love. We are made for God, and we purify our eyes to look upon His face by trying to see Him in others and serve Him there. In serving others, we purify our hearts and our eyes to look upon God. Loving others is an apprenticeship for heaven. It makes the life of heaven already present. One of the signs we are praying well—that our prayer is bearing fruit—is that we are being slowly changed, that we are growing in love.

In a homily to conclude last month’s synod, the Holy Father suggested two words or “movements of the heart” to describe this love. These words are simply adoration and service. These purify our eyes and hearts to love and live sincerely and fully: to adore and to serve. “Only in this way,” Pope Francis said, “will we turn to Jesus and not to ourselves. For only through silent adoration will the Word of God live in our words; only in His presence will we be purified, transformed, and renewed by the fire of his Spirit. . .” That is the fire that keeps our lamps burning brightly.

Put simply, it comes down to adoration (of the Blessed Eucharist) and service (of others). No big headlines but an essential message! To adore and to serve. This is the charity that fuels the flame of living faith. It is also how, Pope Francis noted, real reform happens in the Church. This is how real conversion happens in our lives, and how others are drawn into the saving mystery of Christ. To adore and to serve. This is how we keep our lamps alight – and how we bring that light of Christ to others.

Adoration and service. This is the spirituality of the diocesan priesthood. It is the way of life of the Christian.

Rev. Joseph Briody

National University of Ireland, Maynooth, B.A.

Pontifical University, Maynooth, B.Ph.; B.D.; S.T.L.

Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome, L.S.S.

Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, S.T.D., 2020

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