The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (1822) by William Blake, Tate Gallery.

Homily for Mass, Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, Ottawa

[Readings: 1 Thess 4:1-8;  Ps 97;  Mt 25:1-13]


Thessalonica was one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Macedonia.  The believers there were faced with temptations against purity and the holiness that God called them to, all the time.  What’s more, they were new to the faith of Jesus, and they were still learning that following Jesus wasn’t just a spiritual thing, but that it translated into practical demands on their concrete ways of living.  And so, in his letter to them, St Paul is urging them to holiness in the way they live their sexuality.  They aren’t to conform to the world around them, but rather to conform to God’s plan.

Nothing has changed!  Neither in the world around us, or in God’s plan.  St Paul’s words are as relevant today as ever.  The message that we see around us in the world is fundamentally flawed.  Like most heresies it starts with a grain of truth, but then gets lost.

People, without direction, do tend to give way to sexual immorality of one kind or another.  “It’s just normal” in the sense that it’s what we commonly observe.  But what the world has forgotten is that this is so because of our fallen, human nature, due to original sin!  It’s not the way God intended things to be.  He calls us, in fact, to something greater, something more beautiful.  The fact that sexual immorality, in all its guises, has been normalized, is a lie of the Evil One!  And we must name it as such, and fight against it!  For God did not call us to impurity, but to holiness.

There may be some souls who have mastered the battle with purity, but for many, if not most, it is a constant struggle: but fight we must, because our holiness is at stake!  We have a great help and remedy in our battle: and that’s the sacrament of Penance.  Jesus gave us this sacrament so that he could constantly apply the medicines of his love and mercy to the wounds we inflict on our souls through our sins.  Through the sacrament of Penance he not only restores us to grace when we lose it, but he gives us grace to resist sin in the future.  He promises to restore us, as many times as we come to him in contrition.

Through the parable of the bridesmaids in the Gospel, Jesus reminds us that some things can’t be shared.  An athlete can’t share his fitness: he can tell you how he got fit, but the only way you can attain that fitness is by putting in the daily effort yourself.

The same goes for holiness, and purity.  We can only attain those by our constant daily efforts of aiming for what God wants for us;  of keeping in mind the directions that God has revealed for us;  of avoiding the things God has told us to avoid;  and by using the means God has given us to attain them: His Word, his Sacraments.

As we offer Mass today, let’s ask the Lord to purify our hearts so that we can live a life pleasing to Him.  If we are caught in the grip of some sin, let’s ask the Lord to help us turn aside from it, to seek his healing.  May the Lord help us to attain the joy and freedom of the holiness and purity that he desires for us.