Week 21: Friday

“The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.” (Matthew 25:3-4.)

Saint Augustine of Hippo comments on this verse from the Gospel proclaimed during today’s Mass:

“It is some great thing, some exceedingly great thing, that this oil signifies. Do you think it might be charity? If we try out this hypothesis, we hazard no precipitate judgment. I will tell you why charity seems to be signified by the oil. The apostle says, “I will show you a still more excellent way.” “If I speak with the tongue of mortals and of angels but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” This is charity. It is “that way above the rest,” which is with good reason signified by the oil. For oil swims above all liquids. Pour in water, and pour in oil upon it; the oil will swim above. Pour in oil, pour in water upon it; the oil will swim above. If you keep the usual order, it will be uppermost; if you change the order, it will be uppermost. “Charity never fails.” (Sermon 93)

Patristic Ponderings ...

Given the role of olive oil in the world of the Scriptures and Fathers of the Church, it becomes apparent why Saint Augustine viewed oil as an image of charity. Oil was used for food, illumination and as a soothing healing agent, particularly for skin injuries and ailments. Acts of charity are actions that offer to another what is needed essentially for life. Thus the disciple of Jesus, whose own life has been filled with the charity of Jesus, gives in turn what is needed to others. Occasions for providing food or drink to the hungry, the light of Jesus Christ to another or the healing of comfort and forgiveness is the oil that must be poured into life. The gift of Jesus' oil that we have received is to be given as gift to another.

O God,
Who cause the minds of the faithful
to unite in a single purpose,
grant Your people to love what You command
and to desire what You promise,
that, amid the uncertainties of this world,
our hearts may be fixed on that place
where true gladness is found.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen