Experienced travelers know how to plan for a trip. They understand the steps necessary to travel wisely so that they enjoy their journey with the minimum of detours, accidents, disappointments, and delays. To experience worry-free travel, we need to be wise enough to put into practice the advice from savvy travelers---always be prepared!
Travelers on spiritual journeys also need savvy advice to acquire spiritual wisdom. Such advice is reflected in today’s Gospel story about the travel plans of the wise and foolish virgins. The well-prepared virgins were welcomed into the banquet, while those poorly prepared found the door locked. Remember, ready or not, everyone is invited to the banquet, so if we keep our lamps burning brightly, the door will be open. Since no one knows their last hour, or when the Lord will return, it is wise to retain an attitude of constant readiness. One such traveler who left us excellent evidence of a prepared life was Thomas Merton.
Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk who died suddenly while attending a conference in Bangkok, Thailand, left behind a literary legacy that continues to feed the spiritual, social and political appetites of many as a guide--a roadmap for all to use on their life journeys. In one travel tip entitled, “No Man Is An Island,” he wrote, “We must learn during our lifetime to trim our lamps and fill them with charity…if the spirit that kept the flame of physical life burning in our bodies took care to nourish itself with the oil that is found only in God’s charity within us, then when the body dies, the spirit itself goes on burning with the same oil, its own flame. But if the spirit has burned all along with the base oils of passion, or egoism, or pride, then when death comes, the flame of the spirit goes out with the light of the body, because there is no more oil in the lamp.”
According to Merton, charity allows us to navigate our life journeys successfully. As we travel, it is certain that we will all have many opportunities to choose the right road realizing it is never too late to readjust our travel plans. However, choosing the right road will not be aided by labeling ourselves Christians while ignoring the wise traveling-style of our spiritual guides. To know and be known by Jesus requires a wisdom that works and waits to welcome him, not just today, but every day. On our journey, we never know when the bridegroom might be waiting just around the corner!
All of us traveling on our own spiritual journeys might garner traveling wisdom from this prayer by poet and priest, Ed Hays: “Forgive me my Beloved Friend, for I procrastinate, even postpone till tomorrow any personal conversion, and real reform of my life. Forgive me, for I love my habits more than I love you. I prefer my old daily ruts to becoming a new person in Christ. I protect myself with my pious prayers that comfort me in my life of holy compromise instead of embracing your message of reform and radical change.
Father Ed called procrastination the “enabler of all my other sins,” and asked God: “give me the penance to live each day as if it were the day of my death, so I can become serious about converting the root sins that really need reform. In all my efforts, I ask your help Beloved Friend. I rely on your grace and goodness to do all I must to prepare to meet you, not tomorrow, not the next day, not whenever it is convenient, but today, in this moment---now. Amen!”
----Deacon Wilson Shierk