On the Thirty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM offers insights on the Gospel parable of the ten virgins.The content is edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here Franciscan Gospel Reflection November 1 2020. Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Jesus told 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.
The parable of the ten virgins is told with an understanding of the typical wedding of the day in mind. At the time when this parable was being told by Jesus, retold by the early Christians, and finally recorded as part of the gospels, a wedding usually unfolded in stages. The marriage was arranged by the families, often while the groom and bride-to-be were still young. With the betrothal, the couple was technically married, but each continued to live with their own families. Finally, when all the financial matters were worked out between the two families, the groom then went to take the bride into his home, to consummate the marriage and for them to begin to live as husband and wife. This is when the celebration began. The virgins in the gospel were most likely part of the bridal procession, waiting for the arrival of the groom and standing as witnesses to the consummation of the marriage.
For the early Christians, the parable takes on meaning. The wedding banquet also becomes a symbol of what God is preparing for the faithful at the end of time. Jesus himself had used the wedding banquet as a symbol of the end time fulfillment. Another symbol is the fact that they are waiting in darkness, without knowing when their vigil will be ended. Lastly, the separation that occurs between the faithful and foolish bridesmaids can be permanent.
The parable stresses the point that it is their preparedness that separates the wise from the foolish. Both the wise and the foolish have been invited to keep vigil, both have brought their lamps, both have fallen asleep. The only thing that separates them is the fact that the wise have made adequate preparations. When you take note that the wise did not give of their surplus oil to the foolish, this suggests that whatever it is that one must do to be prepared for the coming is not something that one person can do for another. Everyone must make his or her own preparations.
- What are some of the things you did to prepare for the last wedding that you were able to attend?
- How is this parable like others told about the kingdom God? How is it different?
- In the parable, all the virgins are said to have fallen asleep. How do you relate to that part of this parable?
- What is your experience of having been awakened by God’s presence?
- In a similar way, have there been times when you were asleep to the presence of God? Can you identify things within you that have contributed to that lack of awareness?
- Can you talk to God about whatever this parable is awakening within you or perhaps you desire to have God awaken some aspect of your relationship with God or those around you?