The parable of the foolish virgins who let the oil in their lamps run out recalls the recurring nightmare that so many experience, of being caught totally unprepared for a test or presentation.
Many people don’t have much of a problem with God theoretically. They believe he exists and even admit that they maybe owe him something. But their reasoning goes something like this: The religion thing can wait. After all, I believe in God and am basically a good person. I really did intend to go to church this morning, but last night’s party took a lot more out of me than I thought and I had one drink too many. I’ll catch it next week.”
Foolish or Wise?
Foolishness is a matter of priorities. The foolish person majors in the minors, investing money and time in things that really don’t pay very well. Wisdom is a matter of putting first things first, not last. Prudence, which is the practical side of wisdom, is about making a plan to pursue and attain the things that matter most (Wisdom 6:12-16), the things that really last.
But the fool’s reasoning continues: “God is love. If I come up short, he’ll cover my tab. I’m too busy and too tired right now.”
Not sweating it when it comes to being prepared for your final exam is not necessarily a genuine expression of confidence in God. If we neglect to make the required preparations, it is not a result of faith but rather of the sin of presumption. When we trust Him to forgive our bungled attempts to obey Him, God is pleased. When we blow off preparation because we expect Him to dismiss our ticket, God is not amused.
Time Will Run Out
If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the forgetting about the Lord is the epitome of stupidity.
So is forgetting that we are not immortal, that though God is timeless, we are not. Our nations, companies, and even our bodies, will not last forever. Everything will either come to a screeching halt and end suddenly, or die a slow death of gradual disintegration. It’s hard to believe, but time will some day run out – for America, for me, even for Amazon.
The Bridegroom’s Return
Jesus said many times that though this world and its affairs seem so real, so urgent, society will one day vanish and all its pressing business will be consigned to oblivion. Christ will return to claim his bride. We’ll either be found with oil in our lamp–ready and eager–or caught unprepared. It will be like guests who rudely show up early for dinner when the house is still a mess and the food is uncooked. Only this Guest will be coming not to eat, but to inspect and to judge.
The Nightmare & the End
We’ve all had the bad dream of being back in school again and suddenly finding out that we must take an important exam for which we are totally unprepared. Well, maybe this dream, like the parable of the foolish bridesmaids, is meant to be a warning to us. For though we may not be the generation to witness the end of the world (1 Thes 5:13-18), each one of us will experience the end of our own world. He will come, perhaps suddenly, for each of us, at a time of His choosing, not ours.
Many have speculated about exactly when he will come. They’ve poured over the book of Revelation and other passages of Scripture such as Paul’s description of being caught up in the air in I Thes 4. Will there be a secret rapture before he comes? Will this occur before the great tribulation, or after? Is what is happening currently in the Middle East foretold in the Bible and therefore a sign that the end is near?
Preoccupation with such things is simply a pious form of snoozing on the job. The end is, in fact near. Our role is not to calculate the day, but to prepare for it. We must maintain a constant state of readiness, with our bags packed and our lamps burning brightly. If we take care never to be entirely absorbed by the tyranny of everyday business, we’ll never be caught off guard. We can still enjoy this life while using it as a springboard into the next.
This post on the ten virgins or bridesmaids, five foolish & five wise, is offered as a reflection upon the readings for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, liturgical cycle A – Wisdom 6:12-16), Psalm 63, I Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13 (the parable of the foolish and wise bridesmaids or virgins).