By Michael Fitzpatrick
Reading from the Gospel of Matthew, 25:1-13
1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
A childhood friend of mine met his father for the first time at age fifteen. Late into their first conversation, the prodigal dad suggested to his son, “Maybe sometime we could go hunting together? I could show you my truck, my rifles, get a sense of how much you’ve learned.” My friend was pensive for a moment before replying, “I appreciate the thought, but I just met you. You’ve been gone most of my life; you can’t just show up and want to do things with me. I don’t even know you.”
What an awesome category to be judged by! Whether we have the trust of another person depends on whether we have made the appropriate gestures to build a relationship of affection and sacrifice. Jesus’ parable can at first blush seem mercenary, cold-hearted and cruel, if we discount the significance of its final judgment: “Truly, I don’t know you.”
To commit our lives to the lordship and salvation of Jesus is to accept a change of life that leads us to be known by him. We cannot put off prayer, the fruits of the Spirit, joining a local church, serving others, or reading scripture as things we’ll get to at some point. Jesus’ parable describes his followers as those who keep watch, with all the necessary provisions to rise up and go when the bridegroom arrives.
In other words, being ready to walk with Jesus means being ready to walk with Jesus now. Those who want to play catchup when Jesus comes to claim his family have not shown good faith. If we don’t demonstrate now that we wish to have anything to do with God, then when we hope to hear an easy word of welcome, a relational shortcut, we find a just judge saying, “Truly, I don’t know you.”
Michael Fitzpatrick is a doctoral student in Philosophy at Stanford University and a student leader for the Episcopal-Lutheran Campus Ministry at Stanford. Michael attends St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, CA.
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