Keeping Our Lamps Lit

The following homily was given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time on Sunday, November 6, at St. Robert Bellarmine Chapel at George Mason University in Fairfax.

As we have experienced so often during previous Sunday Liturgies this fall, through tonight's Gospel account Jesus is once again teaching us by using a parable or a story. Tonight, it is the parable of the 10 Virgins. I invite you to apply the lesson of this parable to your lives here as members of the Catholic Campus Community at George Mason University.

All 10 virgins were invited to the wedding feast. All 10 of them carried lamps. However, five of them brought flasks of oil with their lamps; these were the wise virgins. The other five, however, brought no oil with them; these were the foolish virgins. The bridegroom was delayed, so all 10 became drowsy and fell asleep. When the announcement came that the bridegroom had arrived, the five wise virgins had oil with which to refill their lamps, while the five foolish ones did not. In summary, the five wise virgins were prepared for the bridegroom's arrival; the other five were not.

Now, let us apply this parable to you as disciples of Christ living on this campus. All of you &#0151 all of us &#0151 are called from baptism on to be followers of Christ and as such, to be a light and to give light to others. Jesus Himself tells all of us in the Sermon on the Mount: “You are the light of the world" your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt 5:14, 16). So, your light must be like a fire warming others with the flame of Christ's Truth and Love. I am told that Father Peter and his collaborators in the Catholic Campus Ministry office often use a phrase: “lighting the campus on fire.”

In a real way, each of us who seeks to live as a committed follower of Jesus must be like those five wise virgins who were a source of light to others because they kept their lamps lit.

All of us must be continually prepared to be the bearers of Christ's light until He comes in glory.

So, then, the question for you &#0151 for all of us &#0151 is: how do we keep our lamps lit, how do we keep prepared? In the parable, the five wise virgins brought flasks of oil in order to be prepared. What is the “oil” we must bring?

I invite us to see the “oil” as our developing and deepening relationship with Christ within the community of the Church He founded. As long as we remain in union with Him, we are filled with His light and, therefore, have the “oil” with which to keep our lamps lit, our witness to Jesus alive &#0151 to light the campus on fire!

Obviously, a developing and deepening relationship between two persons involves both invitation and response. The Lord invited us to a deeply personal relationship with Him within the community of His Church at our baptism. From that moment, He keeps on renewing His invitation every day in countless ways. Are we listening and responding? Being here on this campus and participating in the life of the Catholic Campus Community here at George Mason University offers each of you a priceless opportunity to hear more clearly and respond more fully to Christ's invitation: “Come to Me and be My disciple, My friend!”

Tonight's first reading from the Book of Wisdom reminds us that true wisdom enriches our lives, leading us to meaning and purpose beyond the superficial. You are truly wise as you take advantage here of the various opportunities to develop and to deepen your relationship with Jesus within His Church.

This relationship to which each of us is called will develop and deepen as we pray. Prayer is the expression of our relationship, the expression of our listening and response, of our surrender and trust. Prayer can take the form of reflecting on God's Word in the scriptures; His Word becomes a light to our paths. Prayer can take the form of being in Christ's eucharistic Presence in the tabernacle, where He remains in our midst in His Real Enduring Presence. Whatever the form of prayer, we grow in love with Jesus as we pray.

Our relationship with Jesus within His Church develops and deepens as we participate in the celebration of the sacraments, especially penance and holy Eucharist. In each sacrament, Christ Himself is at work in order to communicate the grace that each sacrament signifies. So, in the sacrament of penance, Jesus forgives us and restores us to union with Himself and His Church. In the holy Eucharist, which is both a sacrifice and a sacrament, Jesus renews in our midst His Dying and Rising and feeds us with His very Self under the sign of bread and wine.

Sunday Eucharist is essential to our developing and deepening relationship with Jesus. At World Youth Day in Cologne this past August, Pope Benedict XVI told the over one million young people gathered there, “Dear friends! Sometimes, our initial impression is that having to include time for Mass on Sunday is rather inconvenient. But if you make the effort, you will realize that this is what gives a proper focus to your free time. Do not be deterred from taking part in Sunday Mass, and help others to discover it too. This is because the Holy Eucharist releases the joy that we need so much, and we must learn to grasp it ever more deeply, we must learn to love it. " Through your love for the Eucharist you will also rediscover the Sacrament of Reconciliation [or Penance], in which the merciful goodness of God always allows us to make a fresh start in our lives” (homily on Aug. 21).

Finally, understanding our Catholic Faith in its integrity and fullness also helps us in developing and deepening our relationship with Jesus within His Church. Again, here, through the Catholic Campus Ministry, you have new ways to understand and to become better prepared for your witness of light.

As members of the Catholic Campus Community at George Mason University, you &#0151 indeed, all of us " are being called to be bearers of Christ's light by keeping our lamps lit. We must be wise, that is, we must always be prepared by taking oil with us for the lamps. We must continually develop and deepen our relationship with Jesus within His Church. Here and beyond here, we must be Christ's disciples, bearers of His light until He returns to take us home to eternal light in heaven, along with all those whose lives have been enlightened by our witness!

Bishop Paul S. Loverde


Bp. Paul S. Loverde is the bishop of the Diocese of Arlington in Virginia.

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