Jesus told to his disciples this parable: “The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us! But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
To labor and to wait. It is easy to understand why Jesus used the image of a wedding feast to describe the Kingdom of God. In Jewish culture, a wedding feast is an extended period of joyous celebration, an occasion when one drinks in happiness and life. Significantly, Jesus first miracle happened in a wedding feast in Cana where he changed water into wine.
Jesus’ own story, addressed to his disciples, is called the parable of the Ten Bridesmaids. Like everybody else joining in the wedding feast, the bridesmaids know their specific function in the celebration. They will escort the bridegroom to fetch the bride, and eventually bring her to the house of the bridegroom’s father where the ceremony is normally held. Usually, the bridesmaids do not know the exact hour of the ceremony because families of both parties discuss the dowry to be given in honor of the bride. Apparently, the length if the negotiation and the value of the dowry correspond to the importance or desirability of the bride.
Thus, the bridesmaids have to be alert and anticipate the coming of the bridegroom. They must be ready to escort the bridegroom and his party along the road that is often unfamiliar terrain, dark and dangerous. When the wise bridesmaids in the parable refuse to share their oil with the foolish ones, the wise virgins are not being selfish but opt only to be practical. They know their crucial role as bridesmaids, and they understand what their duty entails. They make an intelligent estimate of the quantity of oil sufficient for the entire length or duration of the procession.
At the wedding feast in Cana, Jesus averts what could otherwise be a shameful experience for the couple whose banquet runs out of wine, when Jesus turns water into wine. In the parable of the Ten Bridesmaids, Jesus draws the possible disaster that could happen to the party of the bridegroom if there is not enough oil to light the torches. The procession, expected to bring exhilarating joy, could turn into a miserable and heavy funeral.
The foolish bridesmaids knew their duty all along but turned negligent. The disciples will have to learn how to put “oil” in their torches, to allow the steadfast ripening of their faith. The disciples will grow in faith not simply because they wish to lead crowds safely along the journey, but ultimately because of their love for the Bridegroom whose wedding feast they wish to celebrate in exhilaration and joy.
SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2017,” ST. PAULS Philippines, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.
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