- Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
- Psalm 78:1-7
- 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
- Matthew 25:1-13
Although the season of Advent is still a few weeks away, its themes begin to be expressed this week. All three readings today focus on the coming of light out of darkness, the coming of Christ in glory, and on the last judgment.
Jesus told today’s parable based on the wedding customs of the day to show the need for preparedness for the coming of the Kingdom. In Palestinian villages even today, a wedding is a momentous occasion. Friends of the bride join with her to prepare and wait for the bridegroom – who may come at any tie to take her to his house where the wedding ceremony followed by weeklong festivities would take place. When they arrived the gala celebration could begin. The arrival might be delayed – and in this story, it was. It is something of a game for the bridegroom’s party to arrive unexpectedly and catch the bridal party napping.
In this context the parable of the ten bridesmaids makes great sense. No one knew exactly how long they would be waiting, so the smart thing to do was have extra oil. Since the foolish ones did not anticipate the possibility of delay, they missed the party. Jesus warns us to be prepared for a delayed arrival (parousia). Oil symbolized good works to Jews, so those who kept themselves busy doing God’s work were known to the bridegroom when he came; those who had idled their time away were not recognized.
Jesus concludes, “Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
It is a call to live each day as though it were one’s last – not in mortal fear of the worst, but in animated hope for the best: the new heaven and the new earth.
- Imagine that you are one of the “wise” maidens. Why do you act as you do? In particular, why do you refuse to share your oil with the “foolish” maidens?
- Put yourself in the role of one of the maidens who was not prepared. What are the motivations for your behavior in this situation? What is your reaction when the bridegroom refuses to admit the unprepared maidens, saying that he does not know them?
- According to this parable, who will be admitted to the Kingdom of heaven, and why? How would you characterize your response to this parable? What do you find disturbing here? What is comforting?
- Reading all of today’s lessons, what do we learn about the coming of the Lord, judgment, and salvation?