Readings: Wis 6:12-16; 1 Thess 4:13-18; Matt 25:1-13
Staying awake, preparedness, being vigilant and wise are the key words that lead us into the message of this Sunday. Over the next 3 Sundays, the readings will focus our attention on the final days marked by the second coming of Christ. This Sunday the readings underline the importance of preparedness to meet the Lord at all times. In the first reading, wisdom is described as the spirit which enables us to anticipate the unforeseen and to be prepared. We hear that “Wisdom is bright, and does not grow dim”. It is the fuel or the oil that keeps our lamps lit, in order to give witness wherever we are. Wisdom is used in contrast to foolishness which makes us sloppy and negligent in our Christian life. Wisdom on the other hand gives us a kind of a sixth sense in our faith and hope, in order to be alert and prepared. In the second reading, Paul deals with the question raised by the Christian Community in Thessalonica on what happens to those who die before the “second coming”. Paul assures them that because of Christ’s death and resurrection, all who die in Christ “God will bring them with him…Then we who are alive…will be caught up with them” on the last day. The alleluia verse before the Gospel continues the same theme of being prepared. “Stay awake and stand, because you do not know the hour when the Son of Man is coming”.
The parable of the ten bridesmaids is used as a concrete expression of wisdom that enables us to stay awake, vigilant and prepared. There is a sharp contrast between the five wise bridesmaids, who take extra oil with them for their lamps, and the foolish ones, who only take their lamps, completely unaware of a possible delay. It can be quite easy for young bridesmaids to slip into foolishness as in the Gospel story. The main point of the parable is that through our baptism, we have received an invitation to the heavenly wedding banquet, but the arrival time of the bridegroom is hidden from us. But why the stress on oil? Some scripture scholars tell us that the oil stands for our good deeds that shine out like light for others to see. The Master of the house locks out those foolish bridesmaids because Jesus has already warned his disciples saying, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter…but only the one who does the will of my Father” (Matt 7:21). The parable is one of Jesus’ teaching about good and bad servants, and the two groups are people that we probably know too well. There are those folks who are always prepared come what may, and there are others who are never there or never on time! You meet them at school, at work, at the airport and at Church. As someone has said, they are the ones who will be late even for their own funeral! We notice that the Master does not send them to hell, but scolds them. Taken this way, the parable is an invitation to conversion. Wisen up! Next time, come with your own oil. Being wise in terms of Jesus means being vigilant for He will surely return and so we need to be ready. It is not a waste of time, but a time of patient waiting. So, when Christ comes along with his bride the Church, he will go straight in with those prepared into the banquet hall, and the doors will be closed. So what message do we take home? 1) The first reading challenges us to be wise rather than being foolish in matters of faith and morals and thus be patiently prepared. 2) Paul in the Second Reading urges us to remain in readiness for the second coming, when all who died in Christ will rise with Him on the last day. 3) The Gospel passage is a challenge to conversion and transformation in readiness for Christ; it is a challenge to be wise; to remain truly faithful till the end, making the right choices; staying awake till the Lord comes.
©2017 John S. Mbinda