November 8, 2020 The Thirty second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A)
The tie in between today’s readings: Foolish is as Foolish Does
The girls clustered around their meeting spot in the marketplace. Giddy chatter filled the air. Tonight, was the night! They were all in a bridal procession that, for a town as small as theirs, promised to be the wedding of the year. The day was drawing on as they anxiously waited for the last of their group.
“Where’s Esther?” asked one of the girls.
“She’s over there buying oil for her lamp,” replied another.
“Oil for her…C’mon, Esther. We’re going to be late!”
“Late?” questioned Esther securing her flask as she walked over, “How do you know when he’s coming? It could be hours from now.”
“No way! Every detail of this marriage has been planned for over a year. I can’t see anything holding it up. In fact, I don’t know why we’re even lugging these lamps around. Seems a waste to me.”
“Don’t be angry,” said Esther, “These things can run into the night. Seems to me that since we all did bring lamps a little extra oil couldn’t hurt. I think the rest of you should get some.”
Four other girls agreed and went over to the merchant, while the others made excuses.
“I don’t want any to spill on my dress.”
“The smell will ruin my perfume.”
“I think the oil I have will stretch.”
“It’s too expensive!”
“The man is closing up shop,” said one of the girls coming back from the stall, “If you want to get any oil, now is the time…going…going…gone!”
“Enough! Let’s get going,” said the impatient one.
The girls walked down the road out of town to the bride’s house. When they got there, she was already dressed, ready, and radiant. Everyone hugged, cried, and squealed with anticipation. They sat around and tried to find out more about this mysterious groom, whom they’ve never met, and reminisced over their childhood while they waited…and waited…and waited. It had been a long day and it was agreed that a power nap would be a good idea. They woke up to the shout, “The groom is coming! Get ready!” It was midnight. Adrenaline pumped as they trimmed their wicks. To their horror, half the girls discovered that their lamps were going out.
“Ester, can you give me some of your oil?” Others joined in the request to the rest of the party.
“Not a good idea,” answered Esther, “If we share with you then, instead of five lamps lighting the way to the groom’s house, we’ll all go out halfway there.”
“What else can we do?”
Esther replied, “Go back to town. Wake up the merchant and…if he’s not too angry…he may sell you some.”
So, the foolish virgins stumbled their way back to town in the dark to buy oil. In the meantime, the wise ones readied their lamps and joined in the procession, lighting the route to the wedding feast. Joyfully, they all entered inside, and the door was bolted behind them. Hours later, the others made their way back from town to the groom’s house.
“Open up, Lord! It’s us!” they shouted, banging wildly on the door.
The groom looked out and asked, “Who are you?”
“We’re the virgin procession for the wedding party.”
“Look,” he answered, “The procession already happened. The feast has started. I don’t know who you girls are, but the reason that we bolt the door is to keep wedding crashers like you out. Good-bye!”
They stood outside, speechless. Shocked by the groom’s answer and crushed by the sting of remorse for not being ready, they cried uncontrollably.
Ouch, harsh! The parable of the Ten Virgins is an important lesson to us all. Let’s compare the foolish virgins’ actions in today’s gospel narrative, Matthew 25:1-13, with the Bible’s thoughts on wisdom.
They presumed they knew the course of events.
Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered (Proverbs 28:26)
They took no forethought nor wanted to be bothered preparing to get what they needed.
The wise are cautious and avoid danger; fools plunge ahead with reckless confidence (Proverbs 14:16).
They made excuses for not taking the counsel of the wise virgins.
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice (Proverbs 12:15).
When trouble came, they counted on others to bail them out. Wisdom says:
27 When your dread comes like a storm
And your disaster comes like a whirlwind,
When distress and anguish come upon you.
28 Then they will call on me, but I will not answer;
They will seek me diligently but will not find me, (Proverbs 1:27-28)
Metaphorically speaking, The Bible tells us that Wisdom is a beautiful and wonderful woman. Our reading in the book of Wisdom 6:12-16 says that she is not hard to find for the person who wants her. Once discovered, she will show you the ways of prosperity and blessing, because the one who walks with her walks with God. Psalm 63:1-8, our reading for today, uses words like: watch for, yearn, thirst, meditate, and others to illustrate the intimate relationship between God and the wise person who has made Him their companion. The thrust of today’s gospel reading is not primarily the contrast of wisdom vs. foolishness. It’s that in their foolishness the virgins were missing something…oil, which in this parable stands for the Holy Spirit.
Romans 8:9-11 emphasizes the crucial role the Holy Spirit plays in our relationship with God:
9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
Don’t miss verse 11! It ties into our epistle, in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, when Christ comes back for His bride. Jesus will descend from heaven with a shout and the trumpet of God will herald His coming. The dead in Christ will rise first, then those living at the time of the Second Coming will follow. Only those who have the Holy Spirit (the oil) will enter the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. The rest of mankind will be resurrected but turned away to outer darkness. This takes us full circle back to our gospel.
The parable of the Ten Virgins is a stern warning to the Church. Read your Bible! Be wise! Know what God says! Don’t presume that you know how things will play out. Prepare! Watch! Be Alert! He can come at any moment, either at the end of the world or in death, when it’s the end of the world for you. Let nothing get in the way of your relationship with God. When the time comes, no one can share their portion of the Holy Spirit with you. There is no salvation by association. You must have the oil yourself. “But don’t I have the Holy Spirit and a relationship with God through the Sacraments?” you may ask. Not necessarily. Remember, this parable is to everyone in the Church. Just participating in a sacrament may not bestow any benefit on you. It’s a matter of the heart. I’ve found that understanding the teaching of “second conversion” is a good place to start in examining your heart toward God. Here are some helpful links: Catholic Bridge and Catechism. Don’t delay! Take the wake-up call of the Ten Virgins seriously! Driving down the road of life, you must know whether your oil light is blinking.