1 Corinthians 1:17-25
"Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour."
Today’s Gospel story of the ten virgins, five wise and five foolish (who ran out of oil), comes in the middle of Jesus’ teaching about the end of the age and the signs of His coming. He will come as a thief in the night, when least expected, like the bridegroom at midnight. No one can say when He will come. It may be this afternoon, but it might be another thousand years from now. Be prepared, like the Boy Scout motto reminds us.
This parable of the wise and foolish virgins could be seen as the first recorded oil crisis in the East! This story is really about "Wisdom"–one of the great themes in Scripture.
One of the blessings I receive from prison ministry is encountering individuals who have gleaned wisdom along the path of life. These are people who made poor choices and while experiencing the consequences of those choices, utilized God’s "second chance" opportunity to acquire wisdom, and made profound changes in their lives.
Through wisdom, God communicates to us the meaning of life and the nature of our destiny, which is to be with God, a greater good than life itself. Wisdom is a gift from God and is found by those who desire and seek it.
In today’s Gospel, we are not talking about a momentary lapse of memory on the part of the foolish virgins – forgetting to bring along extra oil for their lamps. We are dealing with two contrasting attitudes towards the wedding feast. For the wise virgins, it was "the chance of a lifetime" to meet the Bridegroom. For the foolish ones, the event didn’t seem to be all that important. Hopefully, we are like the wise virgins who realize that the journey of our life is about preparing ourselves to enter the Kingdom of heaven, utilizing any "second chance" opportunities we get along the way.
In my experience, wisdom teaches us that the best way to prepare for the future is to grow from our past and live in the grace of the present moment. The Holy Spirit helps us to see what needs to be done today and what preparation is necessary for tomorrow.
Alcoholics Anonymous sums it up best by reminding us to take life "one day at a time," which is another way of saying what Matthew’s community came to see, "Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour."
Deacon Brian Clements is a retired member of the retreat team at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California