We are heading into the last days of the Church’s year; we are, in fact, only three weeks from the beginning of Advent. Traditionally in these last Sundays of the year the readings and the prayers in the liturgy lead us to reflect, not so much on the end of the year, but the end of all things. For the next three Sundays we will hear Our Lord teaching us in parables about judgement.
This Sunday we hear of ten attendants of a bride, awaiting the bridegroom, not knowing when he will arrive. When he does, late and unexpectedly, five of them are able to go into the wedding feast with him, and five are not. The distinguishing mark, it seems, is wisdom.
But what does wisdom look like? All of them are attendants of the bride, all of them have lamps. Just as all of us are a part of the Church, Christ’s bride, and at our
baptism were enlightened by Christ. And all of them, despite the Lord’s call to stay awake, fell asleep during the wait, just as all of us lose focus on our calling and get distracted by the world at times. What marks the wise, it seems, is that they have provided themselves with oil for their lamps, while the foolish have not. We might well ask, then, what is this oil that we need to provide ourselves with while we wait for the coming of the bridegroom, the Lord?
In the first reading, from the book of Wisdom, the personification of wisdom says that she comes to those who desire her, who seek after her. To get wisdom we need to go out, not to sit in our own place, concentrating on ourselves. We should in fact link this together with the parables we will hear in the weeks to come, to recall the one who received one talent and buried it in the ground, and the goats who did not care for the Lord in the least of His brothers and sisters. The wisdom that the Lord seeks from us depends on love of God and neighbour, it seems, just as do the Law and the Prophets.
At this time of the year, then, we are reminded that the world, and we ourselves, are finite and will come to an end. But our response is not to sit obsessing about when this will happen, but to go about, doing our best to love as the Lord called us to.
The wise bridesmaids fell asleep, just like the foolish, but they remained awake enough to go and get oil from those who provide it, as they told the foolish to do. In other words, they got it from the poor, the sick, the dying, those who mourn, the lonely, and even the dead, for whom we are called to pray in this month. May we do likewise.
Father Chris Skinner