Peace and good.
Our first reading tells us wisdom is available for anyone who seeks it with honesty and openness. Those who find the search for wisdom too much trouble will be deprived of it. A theme we hear again in the Gospel.
In today’s Gospel, we hear another parable. The wise bridesmaids are far less likable characters than the foolish. If you were in trouble, you would be more likely to get help from one of those foolish bridesmaids than from any of the wise ones. Why are these being described as ‘wise’?
We should remember that a parable is not an allegory. An allegory is a story that has many points of reference to human experience – many punch-lines, so to speak – but a parable has only one. In a parable the detail of the story itself has only one purpose: to add strength to that one point. For that reason, the refusal of the wise to help the foolish is not being held up as model behavior for us. The one point of this parable of the bridesmaids is readiness. Jesus was continuously telling people to wake up and stay awake.
But why do the sensible bridesmaids seem so boring? Why is goodness often seen as boring? The reason may be this: goodness was obligatory at home and in school, and so from earliest childhood, we may have seen it as ‘what other people want’. Evil then became identified with what we wanted ourselves. We may never really have interiorized goodness. We may then feel that it must be the same with everyone else: that goodness is always false. That would be the final caricature of Christian education.
What encouragement are we to get from today’s Gospel passage? It has to be the punch-line of the parable itself: be awake, be alert, be ready. Don’t rely fully on the information you have, or even on the general understanding you have. The situations around us – in the family, the parish, the Church, the country – may have changed while we were not paying attention. We can only be alert in the present moment. So, the message of the story is “watch, therefore, because you do not know the day or the hour” of Christ’s return. A wise person will keep himself or herself ready to meet Christ at any time.
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