Sunday, November 06, 2011

Sunday word, 06 Nov 2011

32d Sunday of the Year (06 Nov 2011)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
 Not Expected; Not Surprised

While on tertianship, the third phase of Jesuit formation before final vows, I had several dreams. One, during our 30-day retreat, happened the week before I was to preach this 32nd Sunday of the Year. Much of the month I had thought on and off of the ten maidens in the gospel. They didn’t figure in my prayer. I thought of them while walking a distance daily to duplicate a handout our retreat director gave the 16 of us each evening. The retreat house in Sri Lanka had an old, temperamental photocopy machine.

Its warmup took several minutes. Its power to duplicate was in its toner, that very fine black powder. As an early generation machine the cartridge of toner did not distribute it evenly, so some pages had shaded areas or dark streaks.
We shared the machine with the retreat house staff. The staff generously allowed us to use it. I thought of the maidens because I didn’t want to walk there, begin using the machine and it run out of toner. Each day I took an unopened cartridge of toner with me. I wanted to be like each wise maiden who took oil for her lamp. I did have to replace the toner cartridge the day before retreat ended. You can, I hope, appreciate why I thought of the ten maidens on and off during retreat.
I never thought they would be the characters in a gospel at one of our eucharists when I would preside. That week they were more than on my mind. I dreamed about them—more exactly about the oil that half of them brought with them. In my dream globules of oil floated out of their flasks. They suspended in air, poised as though ponderous bubbles without definite shape, and they emitted a golden hue.

As the dream unfolded, or better spilled upward with the globules of oil without definite shape rising from their flasks, I was not at all surprised when they took on definite shapes and colors. One by one they began to turn into each of my brother Jesuits there! Joseph appeared sitting as he did throughout our retreat. Tony Dass appeared smiling, genie-like; and Guna, one of the "hyper" ones among us, couldn’t get out of the flask fast enough.

I didn’t expect it, and I wasn’t surprised. Perhaps as the dreamer I wasn’t surprised because of an earlier dream that week. During a siesta I dreamed that I happened on our Director, as he guided a tour. “Nothing more than that,” I told him the next day. “I happened on you as you were guiding a tour—which you’ve been doing.” Smiling, Donatus replied, “I’ve been attending to the exterior pilgrimage, now you are attending to the interior one.” 
What I’m recalling, and what I offer for your consideration and perhaps your prayer, is an emphasis not on the eschatological—our
final goal—aspect of the parable, nor the judgment aspect, which are important and shape our faith, hope and love. I put before us an image I’ve never heard linked with this gospel: you and I are the oil. Oil soothes and assists healing. Comfort one another with these words, to use St. Paul’s exhortation. Our oil Pope Paul VI named our attending capacity: “the capacity to heed the imploring of voices of the world of innocent souls, of those who suffer, who have no peace, no comfort, no guidance, no love.”1

The Book of Wisdom suggests our capacity is more than our power or our desire to heed the imploring which gives voice to burdened bodies, aching hearts, restless souls and search-ing spirits. Our oil meets [us] in every thought. One reform of life this suggests to me is to be more vigilant, more attentive—and still disconcerting me—more vulnerable. Messiah Jesus calls us to be both: more attentive and more vulnerable.
It wasn’t that the wise maidens merely brought oil with them; the oil is their vigilant desire to meet the bridegroom. More than their power, they allowed themselves to be met—which is being vulnerable—by the one whose meeting made them wise, who graciously appear[ed] to them in their lives. 
I share my dreams with you because I have nothing better to say.

Except this: be vigilant to your dreams of grace, especially to your waking dreams when grace meets you and transforms you into your real selves, where you discover the wisdom Jesus imparts to you by his Holy Spirit.
Give Jesus 15 minutes a day this week.
  • Pause in the Trinity, who creates you.
  • Ask the wise maidens, who longed for the bridegroom, to present you to Jesus.
  • Praise Jesus for crowning you in baptism and confirmation with the oil of gladness,2 Jesus’ Holy Spirit, given us in those sacraments.
  • Ask him for grace to proclaim the kingdom by the way you live, choose and act.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It gives us words to say when praying isn't easy; when our words fail; above all, it outlines Catholic living in the clearest way on life’s often unclear path.

  1. Summi Dei Verbum (On the 4th Centenary of the Institution of Seminaries) [27], 1963. The pope named that “capacity” as indispensable for seminarians. It is equally true of all ministries flowing from baptism.
  2. Cyril of Jerusalem used the phrase in his third homily to the newly baptized. The phrase is scriptural, Psalm 45.8, and it abides in the blessing of Chrism by the bishop of each diocese at its annual Chrism Mass.
Wiki-images by Taxiarchos 228 from of an artistic rendering of the ten virgins and by ShingBoning showing oil in an oil lamp are used according to the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 Unported license. 

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