"Ten virgins took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.” Mt 25:1-13
As the Church year comes to an end in a few weeks, this Sunday’s parable of “the wise and foolish virgins” helps us think about the coming of Christ daily into our hearts and at the end of time.
The parable is about wedding preparations. The night before the wedding the bridegroom with some close friends leaves his home to go to the bride’s home to participate in the betrothal ceremonies that last the whole day. At night he returns in procession through the streets to his home where the wedding banquet would be held.
Everyone in the night procession was expected to carry a torch. Those without a torch would be assumed to be party crashers or even brigands. The festivities, which might last several days, would formally get under way at the groom’s house. The torch was either a lamp with a small oil tank and wick or a stick with a rag soaked in oil on the end of it which would require occasional re-soaking to maintain the flame.
In the parable, five of the “bridesmaids” did not bring enough oil. They ask to borrow some oil from the other bridesmaids who brought extra oil for their lamps. The wise ones are not willing to share since they might not have enough if the groom is delayed.
Matthew uses this parable as an allegory. An allegory is a narrative story that conveys a complex, abstract, or difficult message. It achieves this through storytelling. So, what is the complex and difficult message?
Five wise virgins have prepared. They have extra oil. They are present and waiting for the groom. Due to their diligence, they get admitted into the banquet hall because their torches are burning, and the groom recognizes them as invited guests. The foolish maids finally buy the extra oil but miss out on greeting the groom. So, when they knock on the banquet hall door, the groom doesn’t recognize them.
Matthew is asking his community (and us) whether we are prepared for Jesus’ Second coming! This requires consistent times of prayer and worship so God can be the oil that renews, refills, and strengthens our hearts for living His Gospel today. Matthew insists that we need to build a relationship with Jesus today. We need to be a servant leader (with humility) as we serve the poor and vulnerable.
More so, we need to live everyday as if it were our last and as if Jesus were coming today to judge us! Would Jesus find us ready? The oil we need to help our light shine bright is found in our deeds of kindness, mercy, generosity, and faith. Does our faith illumine our path in life? The parable challenges each of us to a state of constant alertness, of perpetual openness to God’s Kingdom that is coming!
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