The Parable of the Ten Virgins
1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ 7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. 11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
REFLEXION, By Fr Aldo, sx
Jesus communicates his teaching through a very common happening that is a wedding feast as it used to be in his time. What is the teaching? Both the number five and the virgins represent Israel that waits for the arrival of the Messiah [the groom]. One part of the people [the wise virgins] is ready and enters the Christian community. The other part [the imprudent] pays no attention to God’s plans, is not faithful and remains out of the feast. Around fifty years later, Matthew takes the same story and applies it to the problem of his community. What was the problem? It was related to the second coming of Christ. In the early Church it spread a certain expectation that the Lord would return very soon. However, little by little people realized that the groom was delaying and even began to doubt if he would really come. Some began to tease with irony those who were waiting as we can also see in II Peter 3:4 “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since our ancestors died, everything all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” So, within this context, Matthew re-tells the story and concludes with the exhortation “Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
In the version of Matthew therefore the ten virgins symbolize not Israel but the Church awaiting the Lord, her spouse. In fact, there is no bride in the story; she is the community of believers represented by the virgins. Some are ready and pay attention to what is essential in life. Others are foolish; they worry about everything, except what really matters. The imprudent ones surely are concerned with their dress, make up, jewelry, perfume and forget what is the most important, the oil.
Often we see this attitude in our communities, people who lose the sense of what is essential, what really matters. They get lost with shopping malls, parties and whatever gives pleasure, often wasting a precious time, forgetting the values for which it is really worthy to commit one self.
Some people may think that it is enough to become good at the end of one’s life. But a spoiled life or a life not properly lived cannot be reconstructed on the last moment. At that hour no one can lend us a part of their lives. This is the sense of the oil denied by the five wise girls. It is true that God always finds a way to save us, but we will find ourselves with what we did. We could have built or destroyed ourselves.