October 2006 - Volume 11, Issue 3

Some Things Can't Be Borrowed

By Msgr. Frank Wissel

Photo of gold cufflinksWhen one refuses to lend a simple thing to a friend or neighbor, it would definitely be seen as being insensitive and selfish.

Actually, while it may not be advisable, we can even lend our automobiles or something very precious to us taking the risk that we might lose it. I remember lending my best pair of cufflinks to a young person for his senior prom. He lost one of them and was very pleased to know that he did not lose both of them. I needed to explain to him that losing one is the same as losing two.

Much of modern life operates on the basis of credit. Everybody borrows something from somebody. A woman baking a cake doesn't have enough flour, so she borrows some from a neighbor. A government runs short of money and borrows from its citizens, or from its lending institutions. Most people buy their automobiles on an installment plan. Homes are brought in the same way.

There is a Gospel reading in which Jesus told a story about five young women who encountered that limit. They were bridesmaids in a wedding. There were 10 in all. Jesus said, "Five of them were foolish, while the other five were sensible."

This distinction became apparent at the point of preparedness. Their role was to meet the groom and escort him to the celebration. Since the wedding was at night, each one carried a flaming torch. For some unexplained reason, the groom was delayed and did not arrive until midnight. By this time, the torches were running low on fuel.

The five sensible bridesmaids had allowed for just such an emergency, and brought along an extra supply of oil. The foolish five had not. They tried to solve their problem by borrowing from the others, but their request was denied. The sensible bridesmaids said, "No, there may not be enough for you and us. You had better go to the dealers and buy yourselves some."

That refusal seems selfish and uncaring, but it is true to life in the realm of the spirit. When a crisis comes and our needs are urgent, we must depend upon our own resources. Life allows us to borrow from one another in minor affairs. But in the great moments, when we face the most important issues, we have only that which we have brought with us. The Lord drew a line right down the middle.

There are just some things that cannot be borrowed. For example, take a cynic who believes that human life is utterly devoid of meaning. That it came into being without design and continues without purpose and ends without hope.

Yet on the other side is a man like Paul. He had lived a long and useful life. Much of it had been hard, but it always had meaning. He kept his zest for living all the way to the end. He truly believed that there was life after death.

There is, of course, a sense in which faith in God is always borrowed. We have been taught it by prophets and apostles. Yet we must build on that faith on our own.

In many ways, our lives are inseparably intertwined with the community around us. We are mutually dependent on one another. We cannot know lasting prosperity unless we share it with others. We cannot enjoy good health unless we share it with the community.

Ours is a shared experience. What happens to one happens to all. But there are some things where we are left alone and some things just cannot be borrowed. It is true that we have God who promised us, "I am with you always, even until the end of the world." So let us remember that there are times when we are alone with him.