Proverbial wisdom is captured in short pithy sayings that make common sense. A few examples might be, “all that glitters is not gold,” “beggars can’t be choosers,” and “better safe than sorry.” Another one that perhaps captures the essence of Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins is “tomorrow depends on what you’re doing today.”
Jesus is giving a teaching, once again, using a parable. He starts in the usual fashion, “The kingdom of heaven is like…” The virgins are going out to meet the bridegroom. This is truly a great occasion of high importance. The anticipation of his arrival is heightened by the fact they do not know exactly when he will arrive.
Some of you may remember the television show “The Waltons.” The pilot for that series was a television movie called “Home Coming”.
The story is told in rural Virginia. The large family lived on a mountain top. The grandparents lived with them. The setting is Christmas time.
Mr. Walton is away because there was no work in the area. He was coming home for Christmas. His wife, his parents, and all his children are greatly longing for his return.
The days before Christmas a great snow storm moved in covering the mountain. The father’s return was the thread that carried the story.
Everyone was anticipating his arrival and hoping that he would be able to get home. Each in their own way was preparing for and hoping for his return.
The family here is like the virgins who are longing for the bridegroom. They wait in hope but that hope is fueled by preparation.
Now the twist, five of the virgins are prepared for the unexpected, a delay. Five are ill-prepared. The one’s who are prepared are the “wise,” the others the “foolish.” When the sentinel cries that the bridegroom is coming, the wise one’s had extra oil for their lamps so they could make their way in the dark. The foolish one’s did not. Unfortunately, there was not enough oil to share, so the foolish had to go in search of some. Hence, they were not able to greet the bridegroom when he arrived and missed out on the wedding feast.
Jesus gives the moral associated with the parable saying, “Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” It is a call for vigilance or being prepared.
We concentrate on this theme during the Advent Season which is quickly approaching.
Today however is a good reminder that this vigilance is something we do all the time, it is a part of our lives. It is wise to be prepared.
The first reading for today’s liturgy is from the Book of Wisdom. This is part of a series of writings mainly from the Old Testament called by scholars Wisdom Literature. Other examples are the Book of Proverbs, Wisdom of Solomon, Job, and some of the psalms.
Wisdom can be described as the ability to respond to situation in life in a good and balanced way seeking to navigate the complexities of life by choosing the best course of action.
The passage today extols wisdom as “resplendent and unfading.” She is available for those who seek her.
The same vigilance of which Jesus speaks is applied to her arrival. “Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed, for he shall find her sitting by his gate.”
From a Christian perspective, we associate wisdom with the Holy Spirit, one of His gifts. The gift is given but needs to be received. The quest for wisdom helps us keep our vigil for the coming of the Bridgroom, who is Christ Jesus.
The reward is great. In the parable, the wedding banquet is the reward. Many times in the Scriptures, a feast or grand meal is used to represent heaven, the heavenly banquet. The image is frequently used for the encounter with Christ in the Eucharistic feast, the Mass.
The goal of our earthly journey is heaven and the final stage is the resurrection of the dead. Saint Paul speaks of this in the passage from I Thessalonians in the second reading for today’s liturgy. He offers words of comfort and encouragement to the Thessalonians who are worried about those who have passed. These living Christians are longing and hoping for the Lord’s return. Their concern becomes what happens to their loved ones who die before his return.
Paul reassures them that they will be raised and we will all be taken to the Kingdom together. His words reassure the Thessalonians and bolsters their, already present, preparedness.
The responsorial today is “My soul is thirsting for you, my God.” A great simple saying that can be used as a prayer anytime during the day. It can help us be prepared.
The prayer reminds us that we have a purpose and direction in life. We have a longing in the depths of our souls to be one with God and to see Him face to face.
The prayer reminds us of the value of today. We have an opportunity to live and to see the day as a gift. We can praise Him for His goodness. We can thank him for His love. We can be an instrument of His mercy. The desire for Him who loves us can actually help us love each other.
“Tomorrow depends on what we do today.” The time to prepare is now. We do not know what tomorrow will bring, what challenges we will face in life, what joys we will experience, what sorrows we will suffer, what hopes we will see fulfilled, nor what obstacles we will need to overcome.
But if we live lives prepared, one’s that seek wisdom and understanding, goodness and truth, then our joys will be heightened, our hope bolstered and we will face our challenges with courage and serenity, anticipating the ultimate reward, greeting the Bridegroom.
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
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