Keep lamp of faith alive with oil of charity, pope says

VATICAN CITY — Acts of charity and kindness make a person’s faith shine in this world and help ensure that it will shine forever in the afterlife, Pope Francis said.

“Faith inspires charity, and charity safeguards faith,” the pope said Nov. 12 during his Angelus address.

Before leading the Angelus prayer with thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis discussed the day’s Gospel reading, which was St. Matthew’s account of “The Parable of the 10 Virgins.”

In the story, 10 bridesmaids are waiting for a bridegroom to arrive. They all have lamps, but only five of the bridesmaids have extra oil with them. The groom is delayed and the 10 fall asleep. When he finally arrives, only five of them have enough oil for their lamps.

The parable, the pope said, teaches that keeping watch is not so much about never resting, but about being prepared.

“This is what it means to be wise and prudent: It is a matter of not waiting until the last minute of our lives to collaborate with God’s grace, but to start doing so now,” he said. “It would do us good to consider a bit that one day will be the last. If it were today, am I prepared?”

“To prepare as if today were the last day — this is good for us,” the pope said.

And the symbolism in the parable offers some practical tips, he said. “The lamp is the symbol of the faith that lights our life, while the oil is the symbol of the charity that nourishes and makes fruitful and credible the light of faith.”

Being ready for the Lord, he said, requires not just faith, “but a Christian life rich in love and charity toward our neighbors.”

“If we let ourselves be guided by what seems most comfortable, by the search for our own interests, then our lives become sterile, incapable of giving life to others,” he said, “and we don’t accumulate any store of oil for the lamp of our faith and it — our faith — will go out at the moment of the Lord’s coming, if not before.”

But those who are vigilant and try always to do good by sharing and helping others can rest easy, he said. “Even the sleep of death does not frighten us because we have a reserve of oil accumulated with the good works of every day.”