The Foolish Virgins, Cathedral of St.Maurice and St. Catherine, Magdeburg, Germany.
Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Matthew 25:10-12.
Words and phrases highlighted in red are links to supporting materials.
Wisdom would seem to be a thread in today’s readings. One definition of the quality of wisdom is the possession of experience, knowledge and good judgment. Hence one would expect it to be found more in the older population than in the younger. But according to our first reading, wisdom can be found by those who seek her, and she comes to those seeking her, so perhaps it is a more universal quality than the strict definition suggests. I am reminded of an event back around 1965 when, as a 19-year old, I made my first trip alone from England. The destination was Italy, but in those days, if you could not afford to fly, which back then was almost everyone, you went by train, and, as this was before the Channel Tunnel had been built, you had to face a ferry crossing over the English Channel. Well, being that sort of person, I took the precaution of taking something with me to eat on the train, as it started out about dinner time and in case there was no buffet car, which in fact there wasn’t. Even the water available was “non potabile” (undrinkable). So I got out my two sandwiches, an apple and bottle of water, and began to dine. Well, these were the days of compartments on British trains, with eight people in each, four facing four (as in the Hogwarts Express). I quickly became aware of seven sets of eyes on me; I was clearly the only one who had anticipated such a situation, and did not have enough to pass around with my two sandwiches and an apple. It kind of reminds me of today’s gospel, with the wise virgins (me in this case) and the foolish virgins (everyone else in the compartment) who could not be helped. Such situations do indeed happen, and sometimes there is no way to help out, no matter how much you might want to. But the difference is that the gospel today is here to remind us to prepare now. If only those hungry people on the train had had such a warning! The gospel, however, goes way beyond two sandwiches, and is talking of life, our lives, and how we lead them here and now. Do each of us have a lamp ready to be lit in the dark? Does each one of us have the oil in it filled to the brim and ready to be lit? Are we guided by Holy Wisdom?
Jesus Christ Mosaic in the Church of Holy Wisdom, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey (now a mosque).
The key is the oil of course. The lamp must represent us, and the oil our actions which light us up in this life; or should do. Those actions which obey the law of love, which we contemplated last week, provide the oil. No love-inspired life, no oil, simple as that. Remember from of old, we are called to be light to the world (Isaiah 49:6); that is our divine vocation in life (Matthew 5:14-16), and we are told not to hide it away (Luke 8:16-18). Oh foolish virgins: you knew that, yet you did nothing, hoping no doubt that you could rush around at the last moment and make up for the deficit, but: “I do not know you” says the Lord. The parable might well say “I told you so”; so we have no excuse, as the Lord has very clearly shown all of us the way. The light of our lamps will enable us to see and follow that path. Then we will be ready when, at last, we encounter the long-anticipated bridegroom; we will surely be ready!
The Wise Virgins, Cathedral of Saints Maurice and Catherine, Magdeburg, Germany.
Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.
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