November 12 – Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Church has a beautiful tradition of adoring the Blessed Sacrament during the night. When I was in college, I would reluctantly sign up for a Holy Hour in the middle of the night, knowing that I would probably fall asleep. And sure enough, I would fall asleep almost every week at some point in the hour. One week, when my hour was up, my friend who was coming in for the next hour, found me sleeping, and I embarrassedly got up and went to bed.

In the Gospel, we have a similar situation. There are ten virgins who are waiting with lighted lamps for the Bridegroom to arrive. Because he is delayed, they fall asleep. The five wise virgins have enough oil to last them through the night, while the five foolish virgins need to go out to buy more, and so are absent when the bridegroom arrives.

Even when it wasn’t nighttime, I would periodically fall asleep during prayer, so I brought it up to my spiritual director. I was going to bed on time, and I was praying at a normal time during the day, but I still fell asleep. I said that at that point, I had done all I could, and I just had to leave it in God’s hands. The director said that that kind of dependence on God is the attitude that we need in order to receive the good gifts He desires to give us.

All ten of the virgins are living a life of virtue, walking the walk of being a Christian. However, only the five wise virgins have the oil of God’s love to help them to be ready to greet the Lord when He comes. We can do all the good works we want, but we need to have the love of God as the reason behind them. As we do this, no matter how well we do, we will come face to face with our human weakness, such as my falling asleep. In those moments, we have the choice whether to give up because our human efforts have failed or to surrender into the hands of God, and receive the oil of His love as a free gift. This is the only way to have enough oil so that our lamps can be lit to meet the Lord when He comes.

I still sometimes fall asleep during prayer time, but I don’t sweat it as much anymore. After all, even the wise virgins fell asleep. But we need to see it as an opportunity to rely on Jesus. When we do this, we can receive the oil of God’s love so that we are not holding empty lamps, but can meet Jesus with lamps brightly burning.

Father Frank