From Our Pastor
The teaching of the wise and foolish maids builds on the previous teaching of the wise and foolish servants. Both parables illustrate the need to live in a manner that expects the return of the Lord, even when the return is delayed. The parable opens with a familiar phrase, “The kingdom of heaven will be like this.” The kingdom is like the whole scene portrayed by this parable where some bridesmaids are prepared for the groom and enjoy the banquet and others are excluded by their own lack of preparation.
In this story, it is expected that the bridesmaids would await the arrival of the bridegroom and greet him with a procession of light in the darkness. Presumably, the bridesmaids are waiting either at the bride’s home for the groom to come and take her or at the home of the groom’s family where the wedding would take place.
All the maids have either lamps or perhaps large torches. All are waiting with their lamps lit in eager expectation of the groom’s appearance. Due to the delay of the groom and the late hour, all the bridesmaids have fallen asleep. Their sleepiness is not the problem, since both wise and foolish alike have become drowsy. The wise brought extra oil for their lamps (verses 2-4). Both groups knew that the groom was coming and waited with their lamps burning, but only half considered that the wait in the darkness might be longer than anticipated.
The parable is summed up in verse 13. The imperative often translated as “keep awake” might best be rendered, “be vigilant.” In this parable, the bridegroom’s arrival was certain. The uncertainty of the timing illustrates the need for constant vigilance. The earliest readers of this Gospel have already entered the dark days after the crucifixion and resurrection and have begun waiting for Christ’s return. This parable challenges them to be vigilant and live in anticipation of the Lord’s coming.
Today we may find ourselves secretly sympathetic to the foolish maidens. Does the church really live as though the bridegroom’s arrival is certain? Some have become caught up in trying to determine the day and the hour, while others have let their lamps run out. To live in vigilance means for the disciples to do the tasks that they have been appointed to do in preparation for the Master’s coming. In Matthew’s Gospel, those tasks include bearing witness to God’s kingdom by welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and imprisoned (25:31-46), and making disciples in all the world (28:19-20).
Peace and all good. Friar Oscar Mendez, OFM.
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