The parable of the ten virgins is difficult for me to understand–or, maybe, it is a hard passage of the Gospel. Contrary to what one might expect the five virgins who prepared by bringing extra oil are commended not because they shared their oil with the other five but rather because they didn’t. This strikes me first as being contrary to the charity that God wants us to show towards all. Aren’t the five who have oil being selfish?
The Carmelites offer this commentary about the response of the five prudent virgins to the foolish ones’ request for help:
The prudent ones could not respond to this request, because at that moment what was important was not for the prudent ones to share their oil with the foolish ones, but that they would be ready to accompany the bridegroom to the place of the feast.
This is helpful to me. There are times when the right thing to do is to love God first of all even if it means that we cannot show others the love which at other times we might freely give them. It reminds me of the occasion when Jesus called people to follow Him, and at least one of them gave a response that seemed perfectly innocent on its face: he wanted first to help with burying his father. Jesus replied, “Do thou follow me, and leave the dead to bury their dead” (Matthew 8:22).
Following God and loving Him: this is our first and highest duty, excelling all others. We must be prepared to do this no matter what, and we must actually do it no matter what. Excuses won’t cut it. Foreseeable preparations must be made. We must be ready when Jesus calls us.