The Ten Virgins

Gospel Matthew 25:1-13 

Dear Friends, today is the 32nd Sunday of the year and as the liturgical year draws to an end the readings focus our attention on the end of time or the second coming of Christ.

In different ways, the Readings remind us of eternal life after this earthly life and underline the importance of remaining vigilant and being prepared to meet the Lord at any time. Our First Reading speaks about wisdom as a woman because of her Divine Origin, caring and waiting for the one who searches for her. Wisdom is the ability to discern good from evil. The life we have now will either qualify or disqualify us for eternal life. Those who seek wisdom will find her and will live wisely. And to live wisely is to focus on what will give us eternal life, that is, doing the will of God. This Reading therefore advises us to be wise in this life.

The Gospel focuses our attention on how to live life in this world while preparing for life in the next world, in the Kingdom of God. Jesus therefore tells the Parable of the 10 virgins to impress us of the supreme need of vigilance and watchfulness. The Parable reflects on the common wedding customs of the time. The virgins who tend to the bride are waiting for the bridegroom to come and the time of his arrival is not known. In the story, there are 10 virgins altogether. Of these we are told 5 were wise or sensible and the others were foolish or careless. The wise girls all brought an extra supply of oil with them while the foolish ones only had their lamps. The bridegroom delayed in coming and the girls all went to sleep. Suddenly in the middle of the night, they hear an alarm – the bridegroom is coming – and go out to meet him. Immediately the girls got ready and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones immediately realised that they were running out of oil. They ask their companions to give them some of their oil but they refused on the grounds that it was not enough. The foolish ones were advised to go to the store and buy some for themselves. However, while they were still away, the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went into the marriage celebration with him and the doors were shut. When the foolish girls finally arrived with their new supply of oil, they found the doors closed, and they cried out, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us!’ But the bridegroom answered, ‘I do not know you.’

Let us identify the characters in this story:

  • The bridegroom is Christ
  • The bride is the Church
  • The 10 virgins are member of the Church, that is, all of us as we await the Lord’s coming
  • The lamps, which all the virgins had, represent faith which all Christians have
  • The oil, which some of them had and others did not, represent good works
  • A lamp without oil is like faith without good works – dead and useless

Dear brothers and sisters, death never makes appointments. The Gospel ends on a very serious note – Therefore stay awake because you do not know either the day or the hour.

A follower of Christ cannot afford to be casual and unprepared for that moment. We are asked therefore to be like the wise virgins – to have oil for our lamps, to always be vigilant, to always be prepared, to always be ready for the coming of the Lord. To be prepared does not mean to live in fear and anxiety. It means to live our Christian life in a responsible way. Remember the warning of Jesus – Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but the person who does the will of My Father in Heaven. When the day comes many will say to Me, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your Name, drive out demons in Your Name, work miracles in Your Name? Then I shall tell them to their faces, I have never known you; away from Me, all evil doers!

In the Second Reading, St. Paul assures the Thessalonians about the destiny of their loved ones who died before the second or final coming of Christ. Would they be saved? The expectation common among the early Christians was that Jesus, after His Ascension, was to return to them very soon so as to take them out of their harsh world and put them in God’s Kingdom. St. Paul’s response is that they need not fear that their beloved dead would miss the glorious deliverance. For Paul, the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the proof and the guarantee of our resurrection, and that God will take to Himself those who have died with Christ. We died with Christ in Baptism and we shall also share His Resurrection. The confusion in the minds of the Thessalonians provides Paul with an occasion for describing what will happen at the end of time. His essential teaching is that all, whether already dead or still living when Christ comes, will be taken up with Christ into Glory. Moreover, he has also made known that Jesus will come again at the end of time as our judge.

Not knowing the day or the hour when this will take place, we are asked to be always vigilant, to be always prepared for Christ’s final or second coming. So dear friends, let us seek Heavenly things as we await the coming of the Lord. Amen.