Today, the Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), we near the end of another calendar and liturgical year. As is always the case, the readings begin to take on a more apocalyptic tone, meaning, they begin to direct our thoughts to the end of time and what lies beyond.
In the Gospel selection for today from Matthew, we hear an interesting story from Jesus as he is approaching the end of His public ministry. This of course also means He is approaching the end of His time on earth, His passion, death, and resurrection. This would be the culmination of His public ministry and His greatest revelation of self as the Son of God, the Christ, Who laid down His life for our salvation.
In the Gospel today, Jesus speaks again of the Kingdom of God, likening it to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. This line is telling… Our life as Christians is forever linked to Christ, the Bridegroom. The Kingdom of God is forever associated with Christ, the Bridegroom…indeed, He IS the Kingdom in its fullness. He IS the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. He is the fullest expression of the human person, and each and every man and woman finds their fullness and completion in Jesus Christ.
Let’s read on from today’s Gospel:
Five of them (the virgins) were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.’
The virgins represent all of us, meaning, in the eyes of God, some are living their lives meaningfully, others are squandering the life and love granted them. Also, Jesus did not choose the image of “lamps” without purpose. The lamp of these virgins symbolizes the Light of Christ given us in Baptism. It represents the Light of the Gospel and the Life it offers. In short, it represents the divine Life within us.
Of course, this means that this Light and Life can be lost! (our lamps are going out…) The meaning of this Gospel and this teaching of Jesus is clear. Christ (the Bridegroom) will come again. This life is our time to freely live in His Light. This life is our opportunity to freely keep the Light of faith and the Life of Christ alive within us, within our Church, within our world.
How do we do this? A big part of the answer lies in the Gospel we heard a few weeks ago, we live according to God’s laws and commandments, which Jesus summarized thus: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. (The first three Commandments focus on loving God; Commandments four through ten focus on our love of neighbor.)
We maintain this Divine Life within us (given first in Baptism) by fidelity to prayer, which is the life line of communication with God. As Christians, Jesus is the one who reveals the Father, which means our life in God is through Jesus, assisted and aided by the power of the Holy Spirit. We keep our Light shining brightly by regular reception of the sacraments, especially Eucharist and Reconciliation. Our Light is made to shine in the world through our acts of charity and love towards one another. Our Light burns brightly when we faithfully fulfill our life as disciples of Jesus in living out the vocation that is ours by God’s call.
This is to live life wisely, and meaningfully. Anything less is foolishment, and places us in jeapordy of finding ourselves on the outside of the Banquet of Heaven once the doors are closed and locked. Let us not be like the foolish virgins who heard from the Lord after the door to the wedding feast was locked: ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Let us stay awake, and live lives that nourish the Light of Christ, for indeed, we know neither the day nor the hour.’