Homily challenge! I like it! Before Mass, I received an email from a friend who challenged me to explain some of the hard sayings of Jesus, conundrums, harshness that is apparently to be found in this parable. Challenges, being put under pressure, make me thrive. I guess I’m pretty fired up in this particular homily, a little extended for a weekday attempt, but I can help it.
If you have any homily/sermon challenges for future attempts of this preacher-man to be faithful to the Holy Spirit, let me know before that Mass by way of a comment on any post whatsoever. The comments are moderated, so out of context to that post comments won’t make it through, but I’ll see then. You never know what will happen.
I was first challenged about this parable of the virgins by a terribly cynical anti-God (literally) very top-of-the-heap official in the Holy See:
- “Go ahead, George, un-street-smart naive priest that you are: trundle over to Vatican Radio to recording room […], and whatever you spew forth we’ll put up for immediate broadcast around the world. Trundle off now. People will be listening.”
Oooo! Pressure! But not really. Because the only “pressure” I feel for preaching is that I might honor Mary by saying something at least somewhat fitting about the words of her dearest dear Son, Jesus. Anyway, that Vatican Radio thing was something like 25 years ago. I think I about said the exact same thing then as the recording from the other day above.
Here’s the deal:
- Jesus puts before us life and death. He’s deadly serious. Take a look at how he tortured to death, taking on the punishment we deserve for sin, the worst we can give out, He standing in our place, Innocent for the guilty, having the right, then, in His own justice to have mercy on us.
- Yes, Jesus is being terribly sarcastic in this parable on our behalf, instructing us on how not to be the foolish virgins and rather how to be the wise virgins. And if that involves “harshness” of instruction on behalf of the foolish, so be it. Maybe it will get them to heaven. But it’s their choice.
By the way, don’t think for a second that – in our fallen human nature – those wise virgins didn’t suffer like hell to remain virgins. Knowing the impossibility of the same if left to their own devices and without grace, they learned instead to depend on God’s good grace, on how to live in God’s good grace, despite the weakness and temptation and darkness of fallen human nature. They learned to be humbly thankful to God: the gift of chastity while remaining in God’s love is in fact a gift from God and is the fruit of love of God.
By the way, don’t think for a second that – in our fallen human nature – those foolish virgins didn’t suffer like hell to remain virgins. But this was not something meritorious. They used this “virginity” so as to put their narcissistic self-congratulatory arrogance in the faces of others, prostituting themselves to “feeling virtuous” before others, “buying the oil, the love of God, at the merchants, the aggressive fallen world. So wrapped up were they that they weren’t even shaken by the extreme sarcasm of the wise virgins, a last ditch effort to stop them from flinging themselves into hell.
To be stark about it, we are not our own saviors; we can buy our salvation. Jesus is our Savior, and He provides this as a gift. Will we receive it, or will attempt to buy it by prostituting ourselves to rationalizations about how it is that we think we are so great apart from God?