32nd Sunday of the Year (A) 2020
One of the most memorable experiences I had in the five years I was in Jerusalem was a wedding. One of our Palestinian staff got married and I was invited to the wedding. All the guests sat down at tables while we waited for the bride and groom to arrive. When they did we all stood up. They came in procession and leading the procession were the bridesmaids carrying candles. I was so touched by this. It reminded me of the gospel we’ve just heard, the one about the wise and foolish bridesmaids.
It is easy to feel a certain sympathy for the foolish bridesmaids. Their sin was that they forgot to bring the oil. How often have I forgotten things. When I first was a priest I used to celebrate mass in a place called Mere, in Wiltshire. For one reason or another, maybe lack of experience I would forget things. So I would have to go back into the sacristy to collect what I had left behind. Some one gave me the nickname “Fr Wrong John.” So, I really do feel a certain sympathy for those bridesmaids. However, the moral of the gospel isn’t that we should not forget things, no, it’s far deeper than that. It is actually about wisdom. You remember Jesus begins the parable by telling us that there were 10 bridesmaids: 5 were foolish and 5 sensible, or wise would be a better word. Jesus is teaching us to be wise, rather than not forgetful.
The last sentence of the gospel is the reason why we should be wise: “…stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.” It’s not a cheery message, not light-hearted, on the contrary, it is deadly serious. A wise person lives in such a way that they are always ready for whatever comes, even death. A foolish person, on the other hand, lives in such a way as if there is no tomorrow, as if they will live for ever; their lives are concerned only with this life, they never think that one day this will all end; eat drink and be merry is their philosophy, and not because tomorrow we die, but simply because they have never thought about tomorrow, nor that there we are destined for eternal life; a life of union with God.
So, a wise Christian can be forgetful, can leave their keys in the front door, or in the car. But what they don’t forget is that life is precious, and at the same time fragile. That in the relatively short time we have we should try and be good; try to be faithful followers of Christ. In this way we shall always be ready to meet our loving Saviour.