BEHOLD, THE BRIDEGROOM! COME OUT TO MEET HIM
(A biblical reflection on the 32nd ORDINARY SUNDAY [YEAR A], 8 November 2020)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 25:1-13
First Reading: Wisdom 6:12-16; Psalms: Psalm 63:2-8 Second Reading: 1Thessalonians 4:13-17
The Scripture Text
“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out. But the wise replied, ‘Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”(Matthew 25:1-13)
When it comes to wisdom, many people shy away from the subject in the belief that it is the proper concern of philosophers or poets. But wisdom is about knowing what to do next, it clearly concerns all of us. And the parable of the ten bridesmaids and their oil lamps confirms this view. The Gospel story tells us of five bridesmaids who are accounted foolish precisely because they weren’t prepared for what happened next.
In the story it would seem that the bride awaits the arrival of the bridegroom at her own home. Her friends, acting as bridesmaids, are to meet the bridegroom when he comes with his friends, then join in escorting the couple back to the bridegroom’s house, where the wedding-feast will be celebrated. But, as happens at many weddings, there is a hitch; and, as happens at few of our weddings, it is the bridegroom who is late. All ten bridesmaids have lamps and all he lamps have oil. Five of the bridesmaids, however, have no reserve supply of oil. They are unprepared for any delay.
When the bridegroom fails to make his expected appearance, the bridesmaids, weary with waiting, doze off to sleep. At midnight a cry goes up to announce the arrival, and the foolish bridesmaids appeal to the wise for oil from their reserve stock. But the wise need the oil they have to make the lighted escort for the couple. So, the wedding procession, minus five bridesmaids, goes into the feast and the door is shut. When the foolish bridesmaids arrive later, they are refused admission. They were not ready when it mattered; they were not prepared with lamp burning brightly when the bridegroom appeared.
The wisdom of the five wise bridesmaids consisted in doing what was expected of them, in being prepared for the arrival of the bridegroom. Their wisdom wasn’t extraordinary, but eminently practical. Their wisdom consisted not so much in knowing what to do in the ultimate as in knowing what to do next.
The bible often uses a wedding as an image for the reign of God. In the parable in today’s Gospel, just as no one knows the time of the bridegroom’s arrival, so no one knows the day or the hour Jesus Christ will return to the earth to establish the reign of God. It could be today, tomorrow, next year, or ten years from now. Since no one knows when Jesus Christ will return, everyone should always be prepared and should not be caught sleeping like the bridesmaids in today’s Gospel parable.
The message of today’s Gospel is simple: if we do what we have to do conscientiously, we have no reason to fear the unexpected coming of Jesus Christ. There is a blessing in doing the ordinary with sensitivity, in doing the sane and sensible things, in acting with common sense and prudence.
Short Prayer: Thank You, God the Holy Spirit, for dwelling in me! Enkindle in me the fire of Your love. Refresh me, so that I may be ready to meet Jesus when He returns! Amen.
Jakarta, 7 November 2020
A Christian Pilgrim