The sort of vigilance urged upon us in today’s "Parable of the Bridesmaids" is different from the worldly type such as good financial management. The Gospel is talking about the kind of vigilance that prepares us for the Lord’s coming. We are summoned as Christians to responsible action. When the Lord comes, we must be ready like the five wise bridesmaids with "their lamps" trimmed. We are not summoned to be unprepared like the five foolish Bridesmaids who were locked out of the wedding because they did not have enough oil for their lamps.
Jesus’s story of the five wise and five foolish bridesmaids is actually amusing. To catch the humor of the story, you have to appreciate the circumstances surrounding a wedding in Jesus’s time which were not that different from the circumstances of weddings today.
Weddings, as you know, never start on time. In the Gospel account, the bridegroom was delayed. And, why not! There’s always a delay at weddings, and cars full of wedding guests get caught in traffic. Buttons pop off at the last minute. Flowers wilt.
Soloists contract laryngitis. The groom or the bride forget to bring the marriage license with them which makes the priest very nervous. Perhaps the bridal limousine might surge out of control, as happened at a wedding I performed some years ago, tearing to pieces all the lovely foliage fronting the church.
The only reasonable approach to a wedding is to stay calm, and submit to Murphy’s Law that if something can go wrong it probably will. When that happens, the best thing is to be prepared. Jesus tells this amusing story to encourage us to be watchful and to expect the unexpected. The wise bridesmaids know that unexpected things can happen, indeed are bound to happen, and when they do they are ready and awake. The foolish Bridesmaids, on the other hand, lose their place in God’s providential scheme of things by not being prepared for the unexpected.
The message of today’s humorous story is to be alert for the Lord’s coming in the many unexpected happenings of your day-to-day lives. Look around you and see what you must be ready for.
Are you attentive to the word of the Lord in Scripture? Are you prepared for the unexpected guest? Are you responsive to the needs of the stranger in your midst? Are you eager and prepared for the many surprises sprung by your child or children? Are you attentive to the needs and joys of your marriage partner? Are you generous to the needy? Are you receptive to the insights of others?
If you can answer "yes" to those questions, then you are awake and ready for the Lord.
Fr. Hugh Duffy holds a Ph.D. from the University of Hull, England. Born in Donegal, Ireland, he was ordained in 1966 in Dublin, Ireland. He is pastor emeritus of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Okeechobee, Florida, where he served for 30 years and built a new Church, debt-free, in 2013. He founded Christian Community Action (CCA) in Ireland that built housing for seniors, a sheltered workshop and bakery for people with disabilities, a community center, and an addiction treatment center. Since 2013 he has traveled across America as an Outreach Priest for Cross Catholic Outreach, Inc. Duffy’s recent book, "What is This Thing Called Faith?" is a collection of meditations with reflections for readers on the sayings of Jesus. For more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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