In the past couple years I have fallen in love with woodworking. I enjoy the process of taking a raw material and crafting it into a useful and beautiful product. I enjoy the smell of sawdust and the feel of freshly sanded boards. I like the hum of power tools and the preciseness of sharp hand tools. I enjoy the time alone creating something that will last for more at least a couple years, if not longer.
I listen to podcasts about wood working. I read articles and blog entries. I page through woodworking magazines and books. Consequently I like talking about it. I enjoy talking for hours about about grain direction, wood species, and shellac cuts.
My wife does not.
No matter how passionate I am, no matter how enthusiastic I get, not matter how dynamically I talk about woodworking, she gets bored pretty quick. She doesn’t mind the results of my work, she just doesn’t care about the journey like I do. No matter how much I want to share my joy in woodworking, she hasn’t discovered it for herself.
In the gospel this week Jesus tells the story of ten virgins waiting for a bridegroom. Five virgins brought enough oil so that their lamps were still lit when the bridegroom arrives. Five foolish virgins did not. Then a peculiar thing happens. The foolish, short on oil virgins ask to borrow some oil from the wise virgins. The wise virgins refuse to share. The five wise virgins are welcomed into the wedding banquet, while the five poorly lit virgins were denied entry.
This doesn’t seem like a very Jesus like story. Why wouldn’t the five wise virgins share their oil? The short answer – they couldn’t.
The oil in this story represents faith. The five wise virgins had enough faith to wait for the bridegroom (Jesus Christ). The five foolish ones fell short. In other words, their faith ran out.
The thing about faith is that you can’t give your faith to someone else. You can share what you believe and share your passion, but someone else can’t believe off of your passion. No, they must discover it for themselves. Each of us must discover, cultivate, and grow our own personal faith.
Just as my teeth don’t get clean when my spouse goes to the dentist, I need to have enough faith myself. As much as I love woodworking and talking about it, my passion, my enthusiasm isn’t enough for my wife to fall in love with the hobby.
St. John Paul II said, “Every generation, with its own mentality and characteristics, is like a new continent to be won for Christ.” As much as the wise virgins would have liked to share their oil they couldn’t. As much as we would like our faith to be enough for someone else, it can’t be. As much as we wish the the people in our lives who are short on faith can just borrow our faith, the truth is, they can’t.
For us, this is an invitation to make sure that our lamp is full. This parable is a reminder to consistently and eagerly grow our faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus asks us to seek a deep, personal, lived relationship with him so that we too are welcomed into the wedding feast of eternal life and not left outside with the bridegroom saying that he doesn’t even know us.
Live It: Find a candle. Doesn’t have to be blessed or fancy, any candle will do (left over jack-o-lantern candle, maybe). Of course if you can find your baptismal candle, even better. Light the candle and then say this simple prayer, “God grant me the grace of a deep and rich faith. Help me grow my lived relationship with you. God help me to love you more tomorrow than I did today.”