During the month of November, when we remember our dead, we are also reminded in the Sunday liturgy of the “last things.” Matthew in particular lays emphasis on final judgement. Today’s parable is told by Jesus to his disciples on the Mount of Olives. It is part of his eschatalogical teaching in response to their question, about the time of his coming and the end of the age.
A wedding feast is often used as an image of heaven. The union of husband and wife is symbolic of the relationship between God and the individual. At first glance it might seem that the wise bridesmaids were being selfish in not sharing their oil with the foolish ones; Jesus’ teaching on love would surely encourage this. However the point in this story is that each individual bridesmaid had the responsibility to be ready at any time to attend the bridegroom. He would come to the bride’s house to take her to his own but would often be late because of the complexity of marriage negotiations. A wedding was an important event and would often last a week. Preparation therefore was very important. The bridemaids were a necessary part of the ceremony.
Our relationship with God is a lifetime journey. Our Lord often spoke of the need for us to be vigilant. It is all too easy be distracted by worldly anxieties like the American election and the coronavirus and forget “the need of one thing” (John 10:42). Perhaps the foolish bridesmaids had concentrated too much on their outfits and had not given too much thought to the practicalities. Light is a symbol of God’s presence. We must constantly replenish our lamps with the oil of faith, hope and charity.