We often hear speculations about end time from people and religious leaders. You may remember this, before the beginning of the new millennium 2000 there were speculations from preachers of different religious organisations that the world will come to an end in the year 2000. September 27th was the latest end time prophecy, but world didn’t end in September 27th. We are all alive! Congratulations!
For many people it is scary to hear it, but as Christians we must live constantly aware of the end time. For us, Catholics end time must be exciting thing because it is the time where we will be uniting with Christ. We regularly pray in the prayer our father- thy kingdom come, usually we don’t mean it.
We hear in today’s gospel about the end time, not knowing this hour, jesus asks us to be prepared.
Today we are presented with an interesting series of readings which related with wisdom, end time and judgment. In the first reading from the book of Wisdom, we find an exhortation to seek the gift of wisdom and to practice it faithfully. What is wisdom. Wisdom is different from knowledge. The book of wisdom says, wisdom is the perfection of prudence. We may have knowledge but may be lacking wisdom. Whenever I need to compare knowledge and wisdom, tv show Big Bang theory comes to my mind. Character Sheldon of the Big Bang theory has knowledge but has no wisdom.
We have to pray to Holy sport to give us wisdom and understanding.
The second reading, from Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians. The early church was waiting for the second coming of Christ. And the people of Thessalonica expected Christ to return before the present generation had passed and they expected Jesus coming and carry them to heaven. As the waiting time is lagging, they were concerned that some of their loved ones had already passed away. Paul tells them not be shaken, be hopeful, whenever Christ returns both the living and the dead will share in the resurrection. Paul’s Christian wisdom and the hope lifts up the Thessalonians’ worried spirits. Hope remains the same after 2000 years after, we are also expected to wait. And we have to wait with wisdom and prudence.
How do we wait? That is the question addressed by Jesus' parable for today.
The ten virgins, five wise and five foolish, are attendants at a wedding banquet, responsible to greet the groom when he arrives. When the groom arrives much later than expected, the five foolish virgins are left without enough oil for their lamps.
The wise virgins were well prepared to welcome the bridegroom with enough oils in their lamps; the foolish virgins were ill-prepared and did not make adequate preparation to welcome the bridegroom.
The story tells us, while we wait for the second coming of the Lord, we should keep our lamps stocked with oil, that is to say, we should pray, love, do the works of mercy, and keep vigil. Oil stands for our good works. In doing so, we are ready for the arrival of the Bridegroom.
The lamp reminds us there are three categories of Christians:
THOSE WHOSE LIGHTS SHINE BRIGHTLY:
Some Christians have their lamps shining very brightly and everyone can see that light. Those whose lights are shining brightly are those who are constantly aware that they are in the world but not of the world; these set of Christians are very focussed in their love of God and neighbour and are willing to use all that they have for the promotion of God’s kingdom in the world. In addition, they see each day as God’s special gift and as the last day, which they have on earth.
THOSE WHOSE LIGHTS ARE DIM: There are those whose lamps are very dim. The light is burning but the light is so weak that it is difficult to tell whether it is extinguished or still burning. This set of Christians are baptised, made their First Holy Communion, confirmed and wedded in the Church but they do not practice their faith actively and so their lives are dominated so much by material things. There is very little faith in this set of Christians who come to God only when they are in trouble. Their love for the material world is much stronger than their love for spiritual growth. Such people sometimes, wait for the eleventh hour before they begin making preparations for heaven. However, not all of them are lucky enough to reach the 11th hour, as some would breathe their last at the 10th hour. This is the reason why Jesus says stay awake for you do not know the day or the hour.
THOSE WITHOUT OIL:
Finally, there are people whose lamps have no oil and whose light is completely extinguished. They are people who were once Christians but presently they do not believe in anything outside the material world and to make matters worse, some of them have turned out to be anti-Christians – challenging the message of Jesus and supporting anti- Christian ideologies and all forms of occultisms. For these set of people, the parable of being ready and prepared for life after death makes no sense and the challenge of keeping their lamps burning is meaningless. It was Mother Teresa who said: ‘To keep a lamp burning, we must continue to put oil in it.
The virgins represent the Church who are waiting for Christ second coming. The bridegroom is Christ. The delay of the bridegroom is delay of the second coming. The closing of the door is judgement.
It also warns that there are certain things that we cannot obtain last minute. A good relationship with God, merits from good deeds. We may think we can obtain this after turning 90 years, or after retirement. No, you can’t.
As we live out the days of late autumn and look ahead to Advent, let us prepare ourselves by seeking the gift of wisdom so as to have no fear of death or judgement, and to live ever more joyfully the life we have at present, in firm hope of the life to come. Let us be sure our lamps are ready for the end of our lives.
Fr. John Pozhathuparambil