The Oil that Fuels our Daily Lives

11-12-2017From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

One of the wonders of the Internet is the GPS. There is an app called WAZE that not only gives directions but even in the midst of travel makes changes. I experienced this a while ago when I exited the New Jersey Turnpike and because of construction ten lanes were being funneled into two lanes. After ten minutes the voice on WAZE said, “You are sitting there too long. Make a right at the next block, then a left at the light. Go two blocks, make a left and you will be fine.” When I followed the directions I was amazed at how clear the traffic was and I arrived at my destination with time to spare.

In today’s Gospel passage (Luke 25:1-13), we see ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom to come. Five are wise and five foolish. The wise ones are prepared. Since they are not sure of the time of his arrival, they bring enough oil for their lamps in case he comes when it is dark. The foolish ones do not have such foresight. Their lamps go out and when the bridegroom arrives to take them into the feast, they are shut out. Whether they were preoccupied, in a hurry, or too distracted, they missed the bridegroom and the feast. There are a couple of ways for us to be enlightened by this parable. Our life is a journey. The journey will come to completion when we die and meet God face to face. We do not carry lamps or flashlights around, but we can so easily be distracted or preoccupied that we are not aware of the true meaning of our lives and what and who it is that gives us confidence, hope, joy, and strength. How often do we see people on the current idol - the iPhone! Whether sitting or being in the presence of other people, at a ball game, even driving a car, people are in rapt attention to that miniature screen. It shows those we are with or what we are doing is not as important as what is consuming our attention on the small screen in our hand. We can also be distracted by anger, disappointment, fear, a desire for pleasure, or a host of other positive or negative feelings. We can be couch potatoes and watch countless hours of TV. We can surf the Internet on our larger computer screens. All of these can so consume our attention that the “oil” or fuel we truly need to find confidence, hope, joy, and strength is drained out of us.

When I was in college one of the books we had to read was 1984 by George Orwell. The ominous warning this book proposed was that by 1984 “big brother,” the government, would be watching. We have far surpassed that fear of our privacy and daily lives being tracked. Through our phones and credit cards, we pinpoint exactly where we are or have been up to the date and minute, and we don’t even give it a second thought. There are surveillance cameras in almost every public place. When I was growing up in the fifties, there was a much greater focus on the consequences of actions, especially our sinful ones, than there is now. We almost seem to want people to know where we are, what we are doing, and what we think. Facebook is a prime example.

Jesus tells the parable in today’s Gospel to open our minds to the light of His presence in our daily lives. He is THE OIL we need to light up and guide our way through life every day. In the First Book of Kings 17:7-16 we read the passage where Elijah the prophet goes to a widow and her son and asks for some food. She replies that she has only enough oil and flour for one more meal and there is a famine. Elijah tells her that if she prepares a meal for him, her jug of oil and jar of flour will not run out until the famine is over. She prepares the meal and has food for her son and herself for the duration of the famine. When Jesus is the “OIL” fueling our daily lives, the more we love the more love we have to give. No matter how much we give we never exhaust our willingness to share our time, talents, and resources. That is the message of the cross. Jesus’ earthly life was extinguished when He died on the cross. Yet even there, His words were only words of love and forgiveness—but as we know the cross was not the end. His Resurrection appearances assured His followers of His continued love and presence in His life as well His presence in their lives. The “OIL” of His loving presence showered them with confidence, joy, hope, and strength. At our Baptism, we were anointed with the oil of salvation on the chest as the priest or deacon prayed: May God watch over you at every step of your journey through life. Right after the waters of Baptism were poured over our heads, the priest or deacon anointed our foreheads with Sacred Chrism and prayed: As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live as a member of His Body, sharing everlasting life. At Confirmation, we were once again anointed with Sacred Chrism as the bishop prayed: Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Yes, we have been given life through the oil of God’s life literally and figuratively. Jesus is our Way, Truth, and Life. Focused on Him in our daily lives, we know who we are, whose we are, where we are going and how we are going to get there. Each day through Him, with Him and in Him, we have confidence, joy, hope, and strength.

Fr. Wald