In the gospel today we have the parable of the ten virgins. I must admit that for long time I used to think there was something wrong with the five who refused to help the other five by sharing their oil. It seemed crass to tell them to go buy some for themselves.
But as I mature I see the wisdom of it.
My mother later in life told me the stories of how she used to stand in the kitchen and clutch the sink, as I went outside in those clunky metal braces they used on kids with CP in the sixties. She would be clutching the sink, because everything in her wanted to run outside and help me up every time
I fell, and I fell a lot. She knew I had to learn, I had to find my strength.
In today's gospel the foolish virgins, there is nothing to suggest that the foolish virgins didn't have the money or ability to go and buy oil. They simply didn't do it. We forget that charity is first of all love. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is not help someone.
One of the hardest thing about being a good Christian is discerning when we are facing someone who is truly in need of help, where we have a moral obligation to do what we can. And, on the other hand, discerning when the truly charitable act is to allow them to suffer the consequences of their choices, and pick themselves up.
Emily Dickinson wrote,
We never know how high we are
Til we are called to rise,
And then if we are true to plan
Our statures touch the skies.