Nov. 6, 2011 — Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Granted, they are usually simply shut, and upon the completion of the bridal procession the late-comers are welcomed in. Yet that was not the case for the foolish virgins in today’s Gospel who left to get more oil for their lamps and arrived after the Bridegroom did. They found themselves not simply shut out for a moment but locked out forever. And to think, they weren’t even late. They had been there waiting for the bridegroom along with the wise virgins whom the bridegroom did welcome to the feast.
At first glance, the lesson in this parable seems unfair, especially considering that upon running out of the oil in their lamps, the foolish virgins asked the wise for some, and the wise, who had plenty, wouldn’t share. Clearly, the lesson Jesus is teaching us through this parable is about something other than generosity.
Today’s Gospel, Matthew’s recount of the ten virgins, sits amidst numerous parables about the heavenly kingdom.
What’s more, all three of the readings today are eschatological in nature. In the first reading, the writer personifies a heavenly wisdom, making note that this wisdom, which is clearly beyond this world, is readily available for those who prudently live their lives seeking it. That which is the only wisdom that satisfies “graciously appears” to those who “keep vigil.”
In the second reading, Paul addresses the Thessalonians about those who have died, assuring them that, through His death and resurrection, Christ has won the victory for us. Therefore, those who die in Christ will be raised. Paul’s encouraging words reminded the Thessalonians who were expecting Lord’s second coming to be eminent, of the hope of eternal glory. We do not live for this world, and Christ has made the eternal available to us, so death is not something to dread or worry about – for ourselves or for others. Rather, it is in death that we experience eternal life – if, that is, we die with Christ.
So it is clear that the message of today’s readings is one that transcends this world. They communicate to us about the hereafter.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus was combating the early Christians’ expectation that the end of the world would happen immediately. They were sure that the Lord’s second coming was imminent, and Jesus, knowing that it wasn’t immediate as they expected it to be, was cautioning them to remain alert and prepared as they awaited His return.
Meanwhile, the early Christians were familiar with the marital language Jesus used as he told the story. The Rabbis often used wedding and marital imagery to explain the relationship between God and His people. So we can assume that those listening to Jesus tell the story would have understood that, while Jesus spoke of a Bridegroom and ten virgins, He was teaching about the Lord and His disciples.
The lesson here is this: if you are not prepared for the heavenly feast, you will be locked out forever!
It is a sobering reminder of God’s love and justice. We don’t know when the Lord’s return will take place or when we will be ushered from this earth, so we must use all of the time we have – every minute that passes – wisely.
We mustn’t wait idly, simply looking out for His return. Rather, we are called to build the Kingdom, to use the time we have here n Earth coming closer to the Lord in prayer and helping others grow closer to Him as well.
Then, when the Lord does return, we will not be out at the marketplace hurriedly preparing like the foolish virgins, but we will be ready to greet Him like the wise, eager to welcome Him and join Him in the heavenly banquet forever.