GOSPEL COMMENTARY: PARABLE OF THE TEN VIRGINS (Mt 25:1–13).
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.”
Jewish weddings took place in the house of the bride’s father. The virgins are young unmarried girls, bridesmaids who are in the bride’s house waiting for the bridegroom to arrive.
The parable centers on the attitude one should adopt up to the time when the bridegroom comes. In other words, it is not sufficient to know that one is “inside” the Kingdom, that one “belongs” to the Church: one has to be on the watch and be preparing for Christ’s coming by doing good works.
Staying awake, in practice, means having the light of faith, which is kept alive with the oil of charity. Commenting on this parable, Pope Francis said:
“there is this “immediate time” between the First and the Final Coming of Christ, and that is the very time in which we are living. The parable of the ten virgins fits into this context of “immediate” time (cf. Mt 25:1-13). They are ten maidens who are awaiting the arrival of the Bridegroom, but he is late and they fall asleep. At the sudden announcement that the Bridegroom is arriving they prepare to welcome him, but while five of them, who are wise, have oil to burn in their lamps, the others, who are foolish, are left with lamps that have gone out because they have no oil for them. While they go to get some oil the Bridegroom arrives and the foolish virgins find that the door to the hall of the marriage feast is shut.
They knock on it again and again, but it is now too late, the Bridegroom answers: I do not know you. The Bridegroom is the Lord, and the time of waiting for his arrival is the time he gives to us, to all of us, before his Final Coming with mercy and patience; it is a time of watchfulness; a time in which we must keep alight the lamps of faith, hope and charity, a time in which to keep our heart open to goodness, beauty and truth. It is a time to live in accordance with God, because we do not know either the day or the hour of Christ’s return. What he asks of us is to be ready for the encounter — ready for an encounter, for a beautiful encounter, the encounter with Jesus, which means being able to see the signs of his presence, keeping our faith alive with prayer, with the sacraments, and taking care not to fall asleep so as to not forget about God. The life of slumbering Christians is a sad life, it is not a happy life. Christians must be happy, with the joy of Jesus. Let us not fall asleep!”
-General Audience, 24 April 2013
This vigilance should be continuous and untiring, because the devil is always after us, prowling around “like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (I Pet 5:8).
- As St. Augustine teaches “Watch with the heart, watch with faith, watch with love, watch with charity, watch with good works…; make ready the lamps, make sure they do not go out …; renew them with the inner oil of an upright conscience; then shall the Bridegroom enfold you in the embrace of his love and bring you into his banquet room, where your lamp can never be extinguished” (Sermon, 93).”
Dear brethren in Christ, when our time comes, we do not want to hear from Our Lord those words: “‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’” While there is time, there is hope. Our Lord in his bountiful mercy, continually seeks us out and gives us the opportunity to mend our ways.
Let us then ask God, through the intercession of Our Lady, Gate of heaven, refuge of sinners, Help of Christians, for the grace of conversion so as to live our life in loving vigilance with the light of our faith and the oil of charity, so as to be ready to meet the Bridegroom when He comes. May we tell our Lord with good deeds of faith and charity: “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God (Psalm 62).”
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