Forrest Gump, the hero of a well-known film and perhaps a slightly less well-known book, said, quoting his mother: “The wise is the one who acts wisely”. These words are very fitting for today’s Gospel. Jesus, in encouraging vigilance, shows two attitudes. One represents the maidens who are sensible. They had a supply of oil in their lamps, which resulted in them living to see the bridegroom arrive and to enter the wedding feast. The foolish ones, on the other hand, were not allowed in because they ran out of oil. What else did they lack overall? Wisdom, foresight, patience. Many people today live their lives in exactly this way – without anticipating the consequences of their choices, day by day, busy with work, play, running away from responsibility. Today, it can be said that many people are ‘active slackers’, they do a lot, take care of a lot of things, but run away from the essentials. Questions arise about the meaning of life, about where they are running to in this way, about whether their life is an escape.
Wise Virgins were able to pause, to wait for God’s presence. Each of us needs a moment to stop, to ask ourselves what the meaning of life is, perhaps even to re-evaluate it. Wisdom is more than intelligence. Being intelligent, a person can even find new ways to sin, to justify their bad behaviour. Wisdom, on the other hand, is associated with responsible behaviour, with anticipating the consequences of one’s life choices, with seeking the true good and not only for oneself. Each of us needs not only to stop, but something more – to rest in God, not to lose sight of Him, to gain strength for life. It is God who is the oil that fills our lamps, it is His power that is the fuel that ignites our lives. Running away, constantly running, failing to stop and reflecting on our lives causes us to lose sight of Him, causes the oil of faith, hope and love in the lamps of our lives to quickly run out. One well-known theologian said: Life is there to be lived, not go wild in life.
Wise words! When we approach life in this way, I think we will never run out of oil in our lamps to enter the wedding feast with Jesus Christ in heaven. Today we celebrate Remembrance Sunday. Remembrance Sunday is about giving thanks for, and crucially, bringing back to the present, the sacrifice and suffering of all those who have died in war: to express our undying gratitude those who gave their today’s for our tomorrows. We owe them a debt that we can never repay, but one which we should never forget either. There are lessons to be learned, lessons to retain, and remembrance Sunday is an insurance policy against forgetting that peace is a precious gift. But so is justice. Those who have died in war will always be present to us: a constant example of service, sacrifice, duty, and courage; and, yes, pain, fear, and suffering, too. In November our thoughts always turn to the souls of the faithful departed; not only those whom we love and see no longer, but those who have no one on earth left to pray for them.
In the meantime, we give heartfelt thanks for those who made the ultimate sacrifice: they will be remembered, in every possible sense of the word.