By Fr. Tony Fortman C.PP.S.
As followers of Christ we are called disciples of Christ. The word disciples comes from the word discipline. The discipline of prayer is something that I find hard to deal with. Sure, I know that I have Mass each day. That is not hard because I am motivated by the fact that many people are waiting in church for me to start Mass. But to pray on my own is another story. During the ordination rite for deacons, the seminarian or married man makes a promise to pray the breviary each day. The breviary is made up of psalms and a Scripture reading and prayers. Another difficulty I have is praying the rosary. I know I made these promises in front of Auxiliary Bishop Carl Modell of the Cincinnati Archdiocese but to keep promises one has to have self-discipline.
I think of all the work that is in front of me each day and I say, “God will understand if I skip my breviary today.” After all, my work is a prayer. But I do know this: there will never be enough time during the day to pray. I will always have reasons not to pray. In the Gospel today, Jesus speaks about the parable of the ten virgins. Five were foolish and five were wise. The five foolish virgins did not have any oil in their lamps and the five wise virgins did have oil in their lamps. The wise virgins were prepared and they went into the wedding feast with the bridegroom. The foolish ones were not prepared. The bridegroom represents Jesus in his second coming. I believe the oil represents our willingness to spend time with Christ and our willingness to serve Christ by being at the beckon call of others.
This is what motivates me to pray when no one is around me. I have an obligation to know Christ. If I am going to preach about Jesus each day then I better come to know his heart. How do I come to know Christ and his heart? By reading from Scripture. When Jesus comes again I want to have oil in my lamp. That means that I burn oil in my lamp and sit down and read Scripture. Not only at Mass but during the day. Then when Christ gives me his marching orders through prayer and Scripture, I can then go serve God’s people in the way they deserve to be served.
I have to spend this life knowing Christ. Listen to what Christ said in the last part of today’s Gospel. The bridegroom and the guests are in the banquet hall for the wedding feast and the five foolish virgins approach the bridegroom from outside the banquet hall or heaven. They say, “Lord, Lord open the door for us.”
Jesus says to the five foolish virgins who did not have oil in their lamps, “Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.” You did not spend time with me on Earth. You were too busy carrying out your own agenda each day. You did not ask me what I wanted you to do each day. You had your own life planned out, which involved getting your name in the paper and looking good in front of others. You were not willing to serve behind the scenes.
Believe me, brothers and sisters, Jesus is coming. “Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” God bless you all.
To view the full scripture reading, click here.
Fr. Tony Fortman, C.PP.S., is the pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Glandorf, Ohio.