EVERYONE SHOULD ALWAYS BE PREPARED
(A biblical reflection on the 32nd ORDINARY SUNDAY [YEAR A], 12 November 2017)
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)
In first century Palestine, Jewish wedding celebrations were very special events involving the entire town. The festivities began after dark with the bridegroom and his friends making their way to the house of the bride. As they walked through the dark streets, members of the wedding party carried torches of oily rags wrapped atop brass poles. They often needed an extra supply of oil to keep these torches lit.
The groom usually tried to catch everyone by surprise by keeping secret the day and the time he chose to claim his bride. However, someone usually went ahead of the wedding party to announce that the groom was on his way.
The bride joined the procession when the groom arrived at her house and – accompanied by much singing, dancing, and merry making – they returned to his home for both the wedding ceremony and the seven day celebration that followed. During this return procession, people came out of their homes and into the street to join the festivities and to offer their congratulations to the happy couple.
Once the wedding party arrived at the home of the groom, only the invited guests went inside. Because the door was barred shut with a heavy beam, making it difficult to open and close the door, latecomers were not allowed in. This explains why the bridesmaids in today’s Gospel were not admitted to the celebration when they arrived at the groom’s house. The ceremony had already begun and removing the beam not only would have been a chore but the resulting noise would have disrupted the proceeding. Thus, the foolish bridesmaids missed the long-awaited wedding ceremony because they were unprepared.
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 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 will return, everyone should always be prepared and should not be caught sleeping like the bridesmaids in today’s Gospel parable.
(Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 108-109.)
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, 10 November 2017
A Christian Pilgrim