Archbishop’s Teaching

5th Sunday of the time of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross Matthew 25 / 1 -13

The Time of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Homily of His Excellency Msgr Selim Sfeir
Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus

5th Sunday of the time of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Matthew 25 / 1 -13

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

1. The character of virgins
What a beautiful start! All together, these virgins have gone out to meet
the bridegroom. In appearance, they all look the same: they carry an unlit
lamp in their hands, stop along the way, doze off and fall asleep in the
night. In reality, however, there is an essential difference between them:
five are "wise" and have oil to feed their lamp when needed, and five are
"foolish" and have none. "How long the bridegroom delayed...". This is
their thought, the same as that of the wicked slave in the previous chapter,
who "said in his heart: My master delays coming... " Is there really a
delay? No, says the apostle Peter : "The Lord is not being slow in doing
what he promised—the way some people understand slowness. But God
is being patient... (2P 3:9). This is the time of God's patience. It is also the
test of our perseverance, and the time to learn patience. In our prayers,
therefore, let us be careful not to use vain and false repetitions such as :
"If the Lord delays any longer...!
We already find this impatience at the foot of Sinai, when "The people
saw that a long time had passed and Moses had not come down from the
mountain" (Ex. 32:1). What was the result? The idolatry of the golden calf!
"They all dozed off and fell asleep". Sleep does not come all at once, but
after a period of idleness or weariness, it gradually takes hold of our
minds. We often need this exhortation, for he who sleeps is as good as
dead and without light: "Wake up, you who are sleeping! Rise from death,
and Christ will shine on you" (Eph. 5:11-14).
To be able to watch and wait for the Lord, our affections must be
committed to Him, and the Holy Spirit must give us that spiritual energy
we so desperately need to walk humbly with God. I know that the Lord
comes to seek His own; this is a truth of the Word that was brought to
light again in the 19th century. However, it is not enough for me to know
it, I have to believe it and live it. Am I really like one of those wise young
girls with oil in her lamp? Oil is an image of the Holy Spirit, the divine
person who dwells in the believer (Rm. 8:9); it speaks of divine life and living
faith (John 3:5). It is also the Holy Spirit's job to awaken us, making us see the
glory of the Lord like Peter, John and James who " saw the greatness of
Jesus with his own eyes. " (2 P. 1:16).

2. The midnight cry
"In the middle of the night, a cry rang out: "Behold the bridegroom; go
out to meet him! The girls awake with a start. The five who had taken oil
light their lamps and enter "with him" into the wedding. For the other five,
it is too late. Too late to "buy" oil from the only source available. You
cannot count on the others, because: "But no one has enough to buy back
a life, and you cannot bribe God" (Ps. 49:7); you cannot buy salvation with
money (Is. 55:1), because it has no price! Today is also the day to talk to your

friend, your neighbour, because today is the day of salvation. Tomorrow
may be too late.

3. The entrance to the wedding
The bridegroom came: those who were ready went in with him to the
wedding; and the door was shut. The time of grace is over. There are no
"second chances". It is no use having God's name on your lips: it is no
proof of the reality of divine life in a man. Many will say : "Lord, Lord...",
but the answer will be: "I never knew you; go away from me, you who
practice iniquity".
The central message of these verses is a call to be ready to go out and meet
the Lord, who encourages us by saying: "Be ready! Be fully dressed and
have your lights shining. Be like servants who are waiting for their
master...". (Luke 12:35-36).

I love you, Lord, with all my heart. I want to renounce sin and the
mentality of the world, and love my neighbour as myself.
Help me to keep my heart vigilant, to watch over my faith and never let
the flame of your love in me go out.
May my lamp always be lit, ready to shine for your glory. I entrust my
faith and my life to you, Lord, and I thank you for your constant grace
and unconditional love.

† Selim Sfeir
Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus

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