By Howard Gregory
A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 25:1-13
1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten young women took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those young women got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But 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.’ 10 And 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. 11 Later the other young women came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13 Keep awake, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
A relative of mine arranged his travel plans for an overseas trip to include a Friday night flight after a long work day. He checked into the airport and waited to board. The next thing he knew the janitor was asking him to move his legs so that he could mop the area, as all flights had already departed and the airport was closing for the night.
Staying alert can be a major challenge for tired and weary souls and bodies.
Living in the “in-between time” in the face of challenges, persecutions, and hardships which they were facing, the early Christians began to feel weary, tired, and discouraged. It is against this background that St. Matthew recounts Jesus’ story of the “wise” and “foolish” maidens/attendants who were part of a groom’s party. Unprepared for the moment when their service was required, five of the ten were ill-prepared and found themselves excluded from the festivities.
There are times when the daily routine of life can make us feel like the exhausted passenger too tired to hear his flight announced. Reflecting on the wise and foolish maidens we may choose to consider the thoroughness with which we approach our discipleship and place of priority we give it in our lives. Additionally, as members of the body of Christ, each of us must exercise our responsibility for the wellbeing of the whole and not just relegate it to the leaders.
That all the attendants fell asleep may be a reminder to us that we all share certain things in common as Christians on our pilgrimage, including moments of weariness. It is divine grace, and our exercise of a life of spiritual discipline, which can sustain us.
Finally, the action of the bridegroom is a reminder that we cannot treat our relationship with our Lord lightly and carelessly. We are to be faithful and attentive to our spiritual life, the moral quality of our life, and to be advocates and agents of the righteousness and justice that give light to the world.
The Most Rev. Howard K. Gregory is Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands and Archbishop of the West Indies.
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