By Lucy Johnson
As a teenager, I was confused as to why my parents would attend daily Mass. My mother, in particular, always had a lot of work to do. But she assured me that she got more accomplished when she started her day with Mass. In any case, I recognized the importance both parents placed on attending daily Mass even if I didn’t understand.
Fortunately, I have grown to understand, and I love attending Mass as often as I can. One of the benefits of daily Mass is hearing the Gospel readings more frequently. Today’s Gospel reading, for example, was also the Gospel reading for the First Friday in September this year. On this particular day, my sister, my husband, and I met for lunch. We had all gone to Mass earlier but at different places, and we each heard a homily that reflected a different point of view on the same Gospel.
My husband had attended Mass with our son at his all-male high school. The priest, celebrating this father-son Mass, chose to focus on the theme of preparation. He described a local man, now playing in the National Football League, who had a “passion to prepare.” This football player approaches each practice with great intensity in order to be ready for the game. The priest instructed the high school students to be as prepared as the wise virgins as they begin the school year and throughout their lives.
The priest who gave the homily at my sister’s parish focused on the foolish virgins, and how they desired what truly couldn’t be given away. It wasn’t as much that the wise virgins were unwilling to share as that the oil was something within them. The foolish virgins needed to find their own oil. Similarly, my priest focused on the oil. He asked, “What is our oil? What fills our lamps?” We each have unique oil inside of us that allows our light to shine.
As the three of us shared our experiences, I reflected on the bigger picture. Jesus taught in parables but gave little or no explanation of their meaning. At times, even his apostles were confused. As a priest friend of mine explained, “whether or not people understood the message of a particular parable, it caught their attention and got them talking, perhaps even arguing about what Jesus’ message might be….and kept them coming back to hear Him again and again”. Almost 2000 years later, we are still searching for their meaning. The more often we hear or read one of the Gospels, the more we learn something new or think of what we hear in a different way.
Leaving that Mass in September, I pondered and continue to ponder about the oil. What is the oil that fills my lamp allowing light to shine? What is the oil that fills your lamp? Perhaps to truly understand, we need wisdom, and according to the first reading today, she is right there for us. Wisdom and understanding can be ours if we take time to look and listen. For this, we need quiet time and a prayerful space – such as at daily Mass?
About the Author:
Lucy Johnson lives in St. Paul, MN with her husband, Jeff. She has 7 children, and 7 grandchildren with grandchild number 8 arriving in November. Past-President of the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women. (ACCW 2013-2015), Pharmacist, A “Martha” working on her “Mary”.