Today’s Gospel is the famous story of the wise and foolish virgins. It comes to us at a time in the liturgical year in which we focus on the second coming of Christ and the question given to us in the readings at this time is: Are you ready to meet Christ when He comes?
What we will read over the next several weeks is all about being ready to encounter Christ. The “being ready” refers to His second coming but it also can refer to our own judgement at the end of our own lives. Are we ready to meet Christ if we were to stand in front of Him tomorrow? Putting it another way, it does not matter whether He comes here or we go there, what matters is whether or not we are ready to meet Him.
This particular reading has an interesting focus in it because unlike others, the crux is that the groom’s arrival is delayed. This is a common theme in much Biblical and other Catholic literature: the delayed coming of the Lord.
But we have to remember some things about Christ and His coming The first thing is that Christ reminds us that the Kingdom of God is within. It is not about just believing in the existence of God, after all the devil believes in God better than you do and he can quote scripture and church teaching better than the greatest theologian. it is about our relationship with God transforming us from within and that transformation then is reflected in how live as an external sign of that internal transformation.
However, if there is no internal transformation there will be no external sign. Again, the devil believes, but he rejects any relationship with Christ and therefore his belief is mute.
This brings us to the Gospel reading. We have two groups of virgins, the wise and the foolish. Remember, the key to living our faith is being immersed in the wisdom of God, as we see in the first reading. So the fruit of our relationship is the wisdom of God and if there is no such fruit then we have at best a superficial relationship.
A study of many of the saints who commented on this reading such as St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome and St. Augustine all indicated that the meaning of the oil for the lamps was good works that we do in response to our relationship with Christ. In other words, as I say above it is the relationship that is key that transforms us.
But notice the key element in this is light and light is always the wisdom of God. It is when darkness abounds that light shines more brightly. Darkness is always representative of those who do not have God’s wisdom. So what we see here is two groups those represented by having oil in the their lamps and their lamps were burning brightly and those represented by not having oil for their lamps and had no light when darkness came.
This is the question pointed to you. Do you believe in God? That really does not mean anything. I can show you scientifically how lack of belief makes no logical sense. But, does your relationship with God transform you and conform you to do his will? Are you a different person because you embrace Christ, or are you just like you would be except that you believe in Christ as you may believe in Thomas Paine. Don’t laugh, there are churches built on that exact idea.
Notice the defining point at the end, the wise virgins go to the wedding feast, the foolish do not. They are locked out and the words that the groom says to them is that I never knew you.
Those who obey the commandments who do not also do the will of God are the ones that Jesus condemns. They do not kill, they do not steal but they treat others as inferior beings and dismiss them from their lives. They do nothing that leads others to know the power of the wisdom of God, the light of Christ in their lives. That is because their superficial understanding of God prevents them from understanding God’s wisdom. This is what the saints explain is the defining point.
You do not have to believe in God to consider murder wrong. But are you able to treat the homeless, the criminal, the mentally ill in a way that is different than the atheist does because you believe in God. Do you see an unborn child as just as human as anyone sitting next to you? How about the severely mentally handicapped. What about the neighbor who has no one to clear his or her snow covered driveway. This includes that grouchy neighbor who no one likes and all ignore.
The people to whom Jesus speaks believe, they follow the commandments and they attend synagogue, but, then they go home and act like everyone else. These are represented by the foolish virgins.
A line that is commonly used and attributed to legions of leaders: “There is never a traffic jam on the extra mile,” We must treat others as we would want to be treated. This, Jesus reminds us, sums up the law and prophets. Allow ourselves to see Christ in others and to treat them as Christ would want them to be treated. In order to do that, you need to go beyond the extra mile.
Let me give you an example. People often are expressing some real concern about the way our world and our country is going. It seems to be going down an ominous path. What leads us down this path? Rejecting the ways of Christ. How do we fight the effects this path? We fight evil by doing the good that Christ calls us to do. We do not fight evil by doing a counter form of evil but by doing good as servants of Christ. So what is it that we as Catholics must do if we are to be the lights of wisdom that Christ calls us to be?
We need to be in daily prayer, minimum weekly mass attendance, to know our scriptures well and to live the faith in treating others as Christ wants them to be treated. We need to be lights to others. Then when we encounter Christ face to face, He will welcome us as good and faithful servants.