Jesus told His disciples this parable: “The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Lighting Our Lamps
The Gospel describes for us how to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus’ “Kingdom Parable” of the Ten Virgins is drawn from the customary wedding practices in Palestine. The bridesmaids are tasked with receiving and accompanying the bridegroom to the wedding feast. It is customary to celebrate it at night; thus, the bridesmaids have to be equipped with lamps.
We all know well the parable; five are wise and five are foolish. The foolish do not bring along any additional oil. As the bridegroom is delayed, they all fall asleep. At midnight the bridegroom comes; the wise go in with him to the banquet. The foolish are late and miss their opportunity; they remain outside.
Pope Francis asks, “What does Jesus want to teach us with this parable? He reminds us that we must be ready for our encounter with Him… He tells us that to watch doesn’t mean only not to sleep, but to be ready. In fact, all the virgins slept before the bridegroom’s arrival, but when they awakened, some were ready and others not. Here, therefore, is the meaning of being wise and prudent. It’s about not waiting for the last moment of our life to collaborate with God’s grace, but to do so already and from now on. It would be good to think a bit: one day will be the last. If it were today, how prepared am I? …
“The lamp is the symbol of faith that illumines our life, while the oil is the symbol of the charity that nourishes, makes fruitful and credible the light of faith. The condition to be ready for the encounter with the Lord is not only faith, but a Christian life rich in love and charity for our neighbor.
“If we let ourselves be guided by what seems to us more comfortable, by the pursuit of our interests, our life becomes sterile, incapable of giving life to others, and we don’t accumulate any oil stock for the lamp of our faith. And, the latter—faith—will go out at the moment of the Lord’s coming, or even before.
“If, instead, we are vigilant and we seek to do good, with gestures of love, of sharing, of service to our neighbor in difficulty, we can remain at peace while we await the coming of the bridegroom. The Lord can come at any moment, and even the sleep of death does not scare us, because we have the reserve of oil, accumulated with the good works of every day. Faith inspires charity and charity guards faith.”
Pope Francis concludes his reflection, saying, “May the Virgin Mary help us to make our faith ever more operative through charity, so that our lamp can shine already here on our earthly journey, and then forever at the wedding feast in Paradise.”
Let us belong to the “wise” with lighted lamps and an abundant supply of oil!
SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord 2020,” ST. PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 632-895-9701; Fax 632-895-7328; E-mail: [email protected]; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.